There are many theories as to why artists such as Frida Kahlo, Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse kept animals as some of their closest companions. Not only do animals often exhibit characteristics such as independence, rebellion and an air of sass- all personality traits which can also be attributed to many artists themselves- but animals can also be a source of much serenity and comfort in an otherwise hectic and harsh world. Here are the stories of nine artists and their pets:

Frida Kahlo:

Best known for her vibrant, colourful portraits depicting her personal pains and passions, Mexican artist Frida Kahlo surrounded herself with many animals throughout her lifetime. These included macaws, a Mexican hairless dog named Mr Xoloti, a spider monkey named Fulang Chang and a deer named Granizo. She suffered many tragedies in life from contracting polio at a young age to falling victim to a severe road accident at the age of 18, leaving her unable to have children. Out of a total of her 143 paintings, 55 were self-portraits which featured an array of her adored pets.

Salvador Dali:

In keeping with his highly extroverted public persona, surrealist painter Salvador Dali adopted a pet ocelot named Babou in the 1960’s which he famously brought with him everywhere he went, from social events to art exhibitions all. On one occasion Babou accompanied him to a restaurant in Manhattan where Dali calmly told a frightened fellow at a diner that Babou was simply a normal cat which he had ‘painted over in an op art design’.

Pablo Picasso:

Pablo Picasso owned a small menagerie of animals including a number of cats, a boxer named Yan and Esmeralda the goat. His personal favourite, however, was a little dachshund named Lump, meaning ‘rascal’ in German, who was gifted to the painter by the photographer and close friend of his David Douglas Duncan. Picasso said famously of Lump: ‘he’s not a dog, he’s not a little man, he’s somebody else’. In his Meninas series Picasso painted 44 studies between August and December of 1957, and Lump the dachshund appears in 15 of them. Interestingly, Picasso was known for being particularly solitary whilst at work, and reportedly Lump was the only creature allowed into the artist’s studio.

Henri Matisse:

Henri Matisse was known for his fondness for cats and doves, a somewhat interesting duo of species to house under the same roof. He famously fed his cats pieces of brioche every morning and was particularly attached to his two cats Minouche and Coussi.

Georgia O’Keefe:

Georgia O’Keefe, the 20th century American painter best known for her magnificent flower canvases, also held deep affection for her pet chow chow dogs. She famously once said ‘It seems to be my mission in life to wait on a dog’. She owned 6 chow dogs throughout her lifetime after she was gifted her first pair named Bo and Chia from her neighbours.

Ai Weiwei:

Contemporary artist Ai Weiwei is celebrated for his work across the mediums of sculpture, installation and film, as well as for his activism on social and political issues both in China and internationally. Before he was exiled from China, Ai Weiwei’s home in Beijing housed over 40 cats and several dogs, who were free to wander in and out of the premises.

David Hockney:

David Hockney is a British painter, print maker and photographer. His work is an important contribution to the pop art movement of the 1960’s and he is considered to be one of the most influential British artists of the 20th century. Hockney owned two very well-loved dachshunds named Stanley and Boodgie, who featured in an exhibition under the name of Dog Days comprising of 45 paintings of the two pups. A review from the Telegraph newspaper at the time stated that ‘only the owner could have painted that’, pointing to the intimacy and love depicted in the portraits.

Leonard Tsuguharu Foujita:

French-Japanese artist Leonard Tsuguharu Foujita was known for his work in the bohemian culture of the 1910’s in Paris. Amongst depictions of women and a series of self-portraits, representations of cats were a very strong feature of his works. In 1930 he released a Book of Cats which included 20 etched plate drawings of felines, and his considered to be one of the top five hundred rarest books ever to be sold.

Andy Warhol:

Even one of the leading figures of the pop art movement, Andy Warhol, had a penchant for pets. Archie the shorthaired dachshund was Warhol’s first furry companion, gifted to him by his boyfriend, and often accompanied him to art openings and restaurants. He was known to refer to Archie as his ‘alter ego’ and often would deflect interviewer’s questions towards the pup when he did not feel like answering himself. His love of cats also started from a very young age, fueled by his mother Julia’s admiration for the animals, and culminated in the release of a book of ink-wash cat portraits titled 25 Cats Named Sam and One Blue Pussy (1954).

All image courtesy indicated in captions.