Frida Kahlo’s Arrests and Artistic Resilience

Catherine A. Jones
 | January 12, 2024

Mexican artist and feminist icon Frida Kahlo is probably the most famous artist in the world. 

In the past decade, her work has sold for millions at auction, breaking records for paintings by any Latin American artist. And details of her life are often celebrated in books, plays, operas, and even gardening exhibits.

Yet, woven into the tapestry of her existence, there are still lesser-known secrets, which reveal themselves as time goes on. 

One of those biggest secrets is perhaps the details of her arrest, or arrests. 

Frida Kahlo Goes to Jail

Some sources say Kahlo was also arrested three times in her life – twice for political reasons and once for murder.

Some sources claim that the first time Kahlo was arrested as a teen, along with her boyfriend, Alejandro Gómez Arias, who was a student activist.

“… Mexican artist Frida Kahlo was arrested and imprisoned for her role in a student uprising at her school, the National Preparatory School,” a fine art gallery in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area, writes. “The uprising was in protest of the government’s treatment of political prisoners. Kahlo and her fellow protesters were released after a few days …”

In August, a month later, some say she faced another arrest due to her involvement in a protest against the government’s closure of the National Preparatory School.

“She was held for a week before being released on bail,” Huckleberry Fine Art explains.

She’s Arrested for a Brutal Murder

In the summer of 1940, Kahlo was arrested again. This time, it was for murder.

“After the Spaniard Ramón Mercader assassinated Trotsky, Frida Kahlo and her sister Cristina Kahlo spent two days in jail following hours of interrogation,” El Pais explains.

The Mexico City police considered her a possible accomplice in the murder of the embattled Russian revolutionary, Leon Trotsky. 

A few days before her arrest, Trotsky was fatally attacked with an ice pick.

“His murder — and her implication in the crime — was a dramatic turn of events, especially considering that Kahlo and Trotsky had been giddy lovers just three years earlier; she’d even dedicated a striking self-portrait to him,” writes.

Kahlo and her husband, renowned muralist Diego Rivera, first met the Russian revolutionary in 1937.

“It was Rivera who convinced Mexican President Lázaro Cárdenas to offer Trotsky political asylum in Mexico,” explains.

For several years, Trotsky and his wife resided at the couple’s home, La Casa Azul, where an unexpected romantic entanglement unfolded between Trotsky and Kahlo.

“In 1940, he was assassinated and Kahlo, along with her sister, was briefly jailed as a suspect. Though she knew the man who committed the murder, she was eventually cleared and released after two days,” My Modern Met writes.

Oddly, Rivera was supposed to be arrested as well. 

“When Diego is implicated in an attempt to take Trotsky’s life, he flees to San Francisco, leaving Frida in Mexico City where she’s eventually arrested,” WPBS writes. 

While Kahlo’s arrests add intrigue to her tangled life, hopefully, her paintings will continue to define her. 

“Painting completed my life,” Kahlo once said.

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