Largely self-taught as an artist, Frida Kahlo made pictures that focused on herself—the stories of her life, her loves, her joys, and her sorrows. She is especially well known for her small self-portraits, in which she frequently included pets.
Here she appears with her favorite pet monkey, Fulang-Chang, who sits behind her right shoulder with his arm lovingly draped around her neck.
His left paw is visible on Kahlo’s left shoulder.
Around his neck is a thin green collar and leash. The end of the cord continues off the painting’s bottom edge; the other end is presumably in the artist’s hand.
Kahlo's dark brown eyes stare directly out, arresting the viewer with the intensity of her gaze.
Her eyebrows, which her husband Diego Rivera compared to the wings of a bird, are thick and black and connect in the middle.
Her dark hair is pulled tightly away from her face into a mass of braids interwoven with a long dark-green ribbon.
Her nose is small; her full lips neither smile nor frown. The facial hair above her lip and along the left side of her face give her an intriguing combination of masculine and feminine features.
The artist wears an unusual necklace made of segments of bone connected by a thin red cord. Cut off by the bottom of the canvas, we see the rounded neckline and shoulders of a white top that emphasizes her long and graceful neck.
Directly behind Kahlo are a variety of large green leaves, reflecting the lush vegetation and warm climate of Mexico.
Several of the leaves are heavily veined; others have been painted with numerous small white lines and appear to have a soft, fuzzy texture.
The bright colors, exotic landscape, and traditional costume and jewelry in this painting reflect Kahlo’s desire to connect with her native Mexico's folk art and culture. Furthermore, when Kahlo married artist Diego Rivera in the summer of 1929, she began wearing the distinctive and traditional ensembles for which she is known.
Self-Portrait with Monkey by Frida KahloAlbright-Knox Art Gallery
Contextual information researched and written by Holly E. Hughes, Albright-Knox Art Gallery Godin-Spaulding Curator & Curator for the Collection, and Emily Mangione, Albright-Knox Art Gallery Assistant Editor.
Artwork: Frida Kahlo (Mexican, 1907-1954). Self-Portrait with Monkey, 1938. Oil on Masonite, support: 16 x 12 inches (40.64 x 30.48 cm); framed: 19 1/2 x 15 1/2 x 1 1/2 inches (49.53 x 39.37 x 3.81 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Bequest of A. Conger Goodyear, 1966 (1966:9.10). © Banco de Mexico Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F./ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photograph by Tom Loonan.