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In addition to belonging to the post-revolutionary Mexicayotl movement, which sought to define a Mexican identity, Kahlo has been described as a surrealist or magical realist. Although she was disabled by polio as a child, Kahlo had been a promising student headed for medical school until a traffic accident at age eighteen, which caused her lifelong pain and medical problems. During her recovery, she returned to her childhood hobby of art with the idea of becoming an artist.
Kahlo's interests in politics and art led to her joining the Mexican Communist Party in , through which she met fellow Mexican artist Diego Rivera. The couple married in , and spent the late s and early s travelling in Mexico and the United States together. During this time, she developed her artistic style, drew her main inspiration from Mexican folk culture , and painted mostly small self-portraits which mixed elements from pre-Columbian and Catholic beliefs.
The exhibition was a success and was followed by another in Paris in While the French exhibition was less successful, the Louvre purchased a painting from Kahlo, The Frame , making her the first Mexican artist to be featured in their collection. Throughout the s, Kahlo participated in exhibitions in Mexico and the United States, and also worked as an art teacher. Kahlo's always fragile health began to decline in the same decade.
She had her first solo exhibition in Mexico in , shortly before her death in at the age of Kahlo's work as an artist remained relatively unknown until the late s, when her work was rediscovered by art historians and political activists. Kahlo's work has been celebrated internationally as emblematic of Mexican national and indigenous traditions and by feminists for what is seen as its uncompromising depiction of the female experience and form. After a bus accident in left Kahlo unable to walk for three months, she started to consider a career as a medical illustrator, which would combine her interests in science and art.
She had a specially-made easel that enabled her to paint in bed, and a mirror placed above it so she could see herself. Most of the paintings Kahlo made during this time were portraits of herself, her sisters, and school friends. On moving to Morelos in with her husband Rivera, Kahlo was inspired by the Spanish-style Cuernavaca where they were living. On moving to Detroit with Rivera, Kahlo experienced numerous health problems related to a failed pregnancy.