Kahlo spent the late 1920s and early 1930s traveling in Mexico and the United States with Rivera who was working on commissions. During this time, she developed her own style as an artist, drawing her main inspiration from Mexican folk culture and painting mostly small self-portraits, which mixed elements from pre-Columbian and Catholic mythology. Although always overshadowed by Rivera, her paintings raised the interest of Surrealist artist André Breton, who arranged for her to have her first solo exhibition at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York in 1938. The exhibition was a success and was followed by another in Paris in 1939. While the French exhibition was less successful, the Louvre purchased a painting from Kahlo, making her the first Mexican artist to be featured in their collection.
Throughout the 1940s, Kahlo continued to participate in exhibitions in Mexico and the United States. She also began to teach at the Escuela Nacional de Pintura, Escultura y Grabado “La Esmeralda”, and became a founding member of the Seminario de Cultura Mexicana. Kahlo’s always fragile health began to increasingly decline in the same decade. She had her first solo exhibition in Mexico in 1953, shortly before her death the following year at the age of 47.