Beginning in spring 2014, Denver Art Museum patrons were treated to a retrospective of an enormous swath of the 20th century’s most representative works with Modern Masters: 20th Century Icons from the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. The collection, on loan from Buffalo, New York’s Albright-Knox Art Gallery, highlighted dozens of the period’s most well-known and intriguing works, including paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, and Frida Kahlo.
Kahlo’s Self-Portrait with Monkey, which was completed in 1938, depicts the artist and her pet spider monkey, Fulang-Chang. One of several pieces in which she included her pet, it shows Kahlo in front of a lush landscape with Fulang-Chang on her shoulder. The artist was known for her love of animals: Her menagerie included dogs, cats, birds, and deer in addition to monkeys. Injured in a traffic accident as a teen, Kahlo could never have children, and some biographers believe that her pets became like children to her.
The portrait was given to the Albright-Knox Gallery as a bequest of A. Conger Goodyear, a multi-millionaire supporter for many years.
Kahlo painted another work with the same subjects, Fulang-Chang and I, which was her first portrait with a pet. The painting was completed in 1937 and exhibited the following year. Her Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird, from 1940, shows her with a spider monkey and a black cat.