Variety of Pets

Possible Classroom Concepts: Social Studies – Pets – Different Kinds of Pets, Pet History

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Goya, Henri Matisse, Frida Kahlo and a few more

Portraits, Still Lifes, Pattern, Variety, Repetition

Dogs and cats are not the only pets in existence. Brainstorm different kinds of pets with your students. They might suggest birds, fish, mice, gerbils, guinea pigs, hamsters, snakes, rats, lizards, rabbits, ferrets, turtles, and hermit crabs. Birds and fish have been depicted by artists, the others, not so much. In the interest of “keeping it simple”, I’m going to talk about one famous pet bird painting and one famous pet goldfish painting.


Goya’s “Manuel Osorio Manrique de Zuñiga”

First, “Manuel Osorio Manrique de Zuñiga” is probably the most well known pet bird painting. You see a magpie on a string and some finches in a bird cage. Read more about Goya, this portrait and some other pet paintings here:

Second, Henri Matisse’s “Goldfish 1912” is the best known of nine or so goldfish themed paintings he created. You can find information about the painting in the first two sections of this post:

and here:

 The influences of Japanese art on Matisse and his contemporaries are mentioned in the blog posts above. Look at the following screen art. This is the first time I’ve seen this. I was astonished! There are several similarities to Matisse’s “Golfish 1912”. How many can your students find?


Sō Shizan”s “Flowers and Goldfish”

You can find a really nice goldfish still life art lesson here:

I have to admit, that before investigating for this blog post, I didn’t know anything about the history of goldfish. Did you know that they were the first domesticated animal ever? That they originated in China? (Just one of the many things originating in China. Awwwww, but that’s for a future post.) If you are interested in learning more goldfish history and looking at more goldfish paintings check out the following post. ( Nude Alert! Pick and choose which paintings you wish to share with students. There are a couple of nudes in this post!)

I am dubbing the following painting as the one with the “Biggest Variety of Pets in One Work”:

Jonathan Eastman Johnson. Girl and pets, 1856

Jonathan Eastman Johnson, “Girl and Pets”


I’m dubbing Frida Kahlo as the “Artist With the Most Pets”. Due to injuries sustained in a bus accident, Kahlo was unable to conceive children. As a result, she collected a variety of pets. She painted 55 self portraits containing her pets. Read this FTI (For Teacher Information only) post for more about Frida and her pets:

See examples of her pet portraits and photos of Frida with her pets in the following set of slides (You may wish to crop out the cigarette in the parrot portrait. Also, you might not want to share the deer portrait with younger students. It’s rather graphic.)

Did you note Kahlo’s pet monkeys? She’s not the only famous person with a pet monkey. Pop singer, Michael Jackson also owned a pet monkey named Bubbles. Contemporary Pop artist, Jeff Koons, created a giant ceramic sculpture of Michael Jackson and Bubbles. Read more about it in this interactive post:

You may want to have your students create a self portrait with their pet/pets or dream pet. You can find a guide to human face proportions here:

A video and step by step charts for drawing many pets from basic shapes can be found in this video:

and here:

You could use the following lesson as a basis for a portrait with pets:

I certainly learned some new things from this post. Hope you found some things you can use in your pet unit! See you next time for my last post about pets.


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