Frida Kahlo’s Family Tree Painting

Anyone who knows me personally is aware of my undying love for Frida Kahlo.  One of my favorite works by Kahlo is her own family tree painting entitled “My Grandparents, My Parents, and I“. However, that wasn’t the only family tree the Mexican artist painted.  There was another one she was working on during her hospital stay in 1950. Unfortunately, she never got a chance to complete her second family tree painting.

Who’s better than me to complete my favorite artist’s family tree?

My own unfinished art usually makes me feel unsettled. It’s always on the back of my mind nagging me to complete it. So I kept on wondering if Frida had the same feeling about her family tree painting.  I imagined that it bothered her…  As someone who’s always felt an almost mystical connection to Kahlo, I’ve decided to complete her work for her. Granted in my own style. It turned out to be one of the most meaningful family tree projects I’ve ever worked on. I wanted for every detail in my painting to have special meaning to Frida.

With that in mind I had to do quite a bit of research.  I also had to make some executive decisions based on what I believed Frida would’ve wanted.
Sounds kooky? Oh, well… It’s to be expected of us, (artistic folk)…

Frida Kahlo's custom family tree painting

A ribbon runs through it

In my version of my favorite artist’s family tree I painted Frida Kahlo in the center next to one of her famous self-portraits. In my painting I depicted Frida holding a red ribbon, just as she does in her own family tree painting. Although, in my work she’s not a little girl anymore. She’s a grown woman we all know and love.

In my artwork I used a variety of elements from Frida’s self-portraits, and photos. The landscape in my painting came from Kahlo’s painting “Roots”.  The split day/night background I borrowed from her self-portrait entitled “The tree of hope”.  The potted plants are the same ones Frida had in her garden at La Casa Azul. I looked through every photo of Frida and her house to find personal objects as I could add to my painting. The giant papier-mache folk art dolls, Frida’s famous bed, her art box and even her fake leg all ended up in my painting as well.

Artwork and photos that inspired me:

Which Frida?

Portrait of Frida Kahlo painted from her photo with a red bow in her hair by Nickolas Muray

Choosing which photo to use to paint Frida from was a bit of a challenge. I finally settled on a photo of her with a red ribbon in her hair, because it went nicely with the ribbon she would be holding in my painting.  The outfit for Frida is wearing in my artwork is something she used to wear in real life.  I chose it for personal reasons.  My favorite color is purple!

Since Frida is most famous for her self-portraits I placed one of them (“Self-portrait with thorn necklace; hummingbird; cat and monkey”) on an easel next to the artist.  The easel itself is actually my own. My mom got it for me years ago at a tag sale without realizing it was broken.  After I fixed it, I’ve become very attached to it and I’ve never ‘cheated’ on it ever since. I guess, painting my own easel was a way for me to insert myself into my favorite artist’s family tree.

Frida Kahlo’s dogs

As an animal lover (another thing in common I have with Kahlo) I figured Frida would’ve wanted her pets to be included in the painting. So I decided to add a few of her beloved dogs next to her.

Fun fact: by pure chance, my own rescue pup Gracie happens to look exactly like one of Kahlo’s dogs. I got Gracie as a puppy.  She was half Chihuahua, half Daschund and I had no clue what she would look like as a grown dog. When she was about 6 months old a friend of mine (who knows how much I love Frida Kahlo) asked me if I got Gracie because she looks like Frida’s dogs. I remember my jaw dropping. “Holy moly!” I thought to myself, “She’s right!  My dog grew up to look like one of Fridas! How did this happen?”

There are no coincidences, right?

Frida Kahlo with her dogs

Frida Kahlo’s family tree: the research

I was amazed that I was able to find a photo of Frida Kahlo during a hospital stay painting in bed the aformentioned portrait of her family. Apperantly, Frida started working on it in the 1940s, and abandoned it in 1951 after one of her sisters died. The artist herself died in 1954 without finishing the painting.

Frida Kahlo painting her family tree portrait in a hospital bed

This painting is a family tree representation. On the top are her grandparents and in the center are her parents. In the bottom, Frida stands at the center and her two sisters, Matilde and Adriana, stand right next to her. On her left side is her younger sister Cristina. It is still a mystery who the three unfinished figures are. Some said two of them are Cristina’s children, Isolda and Antonio. But others stated they are Frida’s two half-sisters, Maria Luisa and Margarita, from her father’s previous marriage. Another small sketchy figure is not really identifiable but maybe Frida’s older brother who survived only a few days after his birth. The fetus by Frida might be the children she lost due to miscarriage.


Family portrait that Frida Kahlo never got to finish due to her premature death.

Diego Rivera

I, personally, believe in karmic connections between people.  In my opinion, believing in seemingly irrational things makes life more fun. You’re constantly searching for meaning and on the lookout for coincidences to make sense out of chaos.  It’s a great way to keep your brain young and curious. But I digress… I feel that there’s a cosmic connection between Frida and Diego. They’re drawn to each other and end up together despite all the heartbreaks and infidelities.

Diego Rivera is large and has larger than life personality.  By the time Frida meets him he’s already a well-known artist. In her lifetime she’s mostly known as his eccentric wife who dabbles in painting. It’s ironic how the tables have turned. So many people nowadays know who she is and don’t have a clue that Rivera was also an artist.

Personal feelings aside

While I feel a bit of animosity towards Rivera (for cheating on my girl!) I decided not to strip him of his glory. To represent his famous art I added Calla lilies (flowers featured in many of his paintings) behind his back. Coincidentally, calla lilies happen to be my favorite flowers.

I painted Rivera from a photo taken of him by Nickolas Murray, who happened to be Kahlo’s lover. Yes, I did it on purpose. he he… I also painted a doll from one of Kahlo’s paintings next to Rivera to represent the couple’s unborn children. Unfortunately, Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo ended up childless due to Frida’s miscarriages. The couple’s famous home La Casa Azul is in the background behind Rivera.

Portrait of Diego Rivera painted from his photo next to his wife Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo’s sisters

I painted Frida Kahlo’s sisters in the center of the family tree.  Matilde, Adriana, and Cristina were the sisters Kahlo actually grew up with. She also had 2 older half-sisters from her father Guillermo’s first marriage, but the poor things were send to a convent after their mother died and Guillermo married Frida’s mother. To paint the sisters from I chose a photo of them as young girls, as opposed to grown up women. I wanted them to represent Kahlo’s childhood. Her childhood was the time in her life when she was still healthy and innocent.

Later in life, Kahlo’s husband and her sister Christina would have an affair. I’m not sure how anyone could get over something like that, and something tells me Frida would want to remember her sister before this betrayal took place.

Photo to painting of Frida Kahlo's sisters: Matilde, Adriana, and Cristina


Kahlo’s parents were German born Guillermo (Willhelm) Kahlo and Matilde Calderón y González, who was of European and Indigenous American descend. Frida’s father was a photographer, so I chose to paint him next to a vintage camera. The same camera appears in one of his photos, as well is in Kahlo’s portrait of her father.

I painted Kahlo’s mother from a photo where she’s wearing her hair up and has flowers in it. It was a look very similar to Frida’s iconic hairstyle and made me wonder if that’s where the artist got her signature look from.


Frida Kahlo’s paternal grandparents were Jakob Heinrich Kahlo and Henriette Kaufmann. There are 2 depictions of them painted by Frida Kahlo herself.  Interestingly enough, I was also able to find their actual photos online. Gotta love the internet! It looks like the artist painted her grandparents from the same photos I used in my artwork.

Photos to painting of Frida Kahlo's German grandparents Jakob Heinrich Kahlo and Henriette Kaufmann

Unfortunately I couldn’t find any photos of Kahlo’s Mexican grandparents anywhere online. Fortunately, I had Kahlo’s portraits of them to go by. Although, Frida’s grandmother looks different in each painting I came up with a composite that I believe looks as she did in real life.  It was a mix of both grandma’s portraits + Kahlo’s own photo.

Portrait of Frida Kahlo's Mexican grandparents painted from Kahlo's own painting

Obviously, there is no way to tell what Frida would’ve thought of my painting, but I sincerely hope she would’ve approved of the way I depicted her family!

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