Frida Kahlo Self Portrait Description

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Frida Kahlo created the painting Self Portrait with Small Monkey in 1945. Like the tittle states she is in the painting, like she is in most of her paintings. This painting now belongs to and shown at Museo Dolores Olmedo in Xochchimilco, Mexico. As a whole, Kahlo’s Self Portrait with Small Monkey depicts the artist herself, features elements of contrast but also ties a ribbon that flows through every figure and represents past and future by centering herself with in the portrait.

Kahlo’s Self Portrait with Small Monkey depicts herself around a monkey, a dog, and a statue. Kahlo is centered slightly left of the portrait while the monkey is behind her right shoulder with his arm coming around her left shoulder. In the back ground of Kahlo’s left shoulder there is an orange human like statue kneeling with its head facing southeast of the portrait (Figure 1). A garish dog is sitting horizontally in the bottom foreground. The monkey, dog, and Kahlo are all looking at the viewer. There is a gold ribbon tied loosely around each figure neck and looped around a nail on the left of the painting.

The foreground holds dark colors such as the braided hair, poncho, and fur on the monkey and the dog. The background statue and Kahlo’s face are warm toned colors, while the washed pink and white colors are coming from the sky. The overall portrait has a still motioned sense to it.

While taking a look at the artwork, Kahlo, the monkey, and the dog seem to be leaving the behind the statue as if they’re ignoring it. One can almost feel the sadness of the statue due to the long face and droopy eyes on the statue (Figure 2). The middle third of the portrait is filled with positive space due to Kahlo and the animals filling it up. The statue is part of the negative space due to being part of the empty sky, almost as if the statue no longer has meaning. The gold ribbon tied around the animals, Kahlo, and the statue as if they’re still trying to stay connected to each other. The nail exemplifies determination as it holds the gold ribbon down as if its job is to keep them connected.

This portrait holds Kahlo’s culture and beliefs. Kahlo states,” I wish to be worthy, with paintings, of the people to whom I belong and the ideas that strengthen me.” (qtd. In Self Portrait With). One can understand her beliefs and ties to her indigenous people, including herself. Her Braided crowned hair and style of clothing connected back to the indigenous people. According to Maura Wilson,

“The Aztecs believed that Xoloitzevintli would guide departed souls through the nine levels of hell and would often sacrifice the dogs after their owner had passed away to be sure the dog would be there to help their owner to their resting place.” (Wilson, paragraph 6). To an understanding Frida believed her dog was her guidance to her final resting place after death.

Kahlo didn’t want people whom she shares her indigenous cultural traits and beliefs to forget where they originated from. In 1945, Self Portrait with Small Monkey depicts her indigenous traits that features many warm and dark colors and represents her cultural background and her beliefs for the future. She wanted everyone to stay connected. Kahlo wanted the people working together with the indigenous people, not against them. Thus, Kahlo paints the gold ribbon tied loosely around necks of Kahlo, the animals, and the statue. It’s a symbol of commitment and strong bond between all people, which is a major message in the painting.

Works Cited

Kahlo, Frida. “Self-Portrait with Small Monkey.” Arts & Culture, Google, n.d., Accessed 29 Jan. 2019.

“Self Portrait with Small Monkey, 1945 - by Frida Kahlo.” Frida Kahlo: 100 Famous Paintings, Complete Works, & Biography, n.d., monkey.jsp. Accessed 11 Feb. 2019.

Wilson, Maura. “Self-Portrait with Small Monkey [Frida Kahlo].” Startle - See Art Differently, 3 July 2018, Accessed 11 Feb. 2019.

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Frida Kahlo Self Portrait Description. (2021, May 31). Retrieved September 26, 2023 , from

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