In many senses, the work that Kahlo then created until her untimely death in 1954, aged 47, remained defined by both physical and emotional pain. Of her 143 works, over a third are self-portraits that often explore her psychological and corporeal trauma, typically using an aesthetic sometimes described as a blend of surrealism, fantasy, and Mexican iconography.
Perhaps her most famous work, The Two Fridas (1939), is as its name suggests: a double self-portrait of two Kahlos sitting side by side, each representing a different side of her personality. On the left sits a Frida in traditional clothing, her heart ripped open, blood splattered over her white dress. Holding her hand to the right is a Frida in more modern clothes — calm and unbloodied.
Completed soon after her divorce from Diego Rivera, a muralist two decades her senior, the painting is usually interpreted as an exploration of the loss and loneliness caused by their separation. Married in 1929, the couple had a tempestuous relationship defined by furious rows, philandering on both sides — and an eclectic social life among the glitterati of the Mexican and American elite.
Staunch leftists, Kahlo and Rivera hosted the Russian revolutionary leader, Leon Trotsky, for two years between 1937 and 1939, following his exile from the Soviet Union. Kahlo even had a short affair with him, and both she and Rivera were briefly suspected of involvement in his murder in 1940 by an axe-wielding assassin. The couple remarried months later.