Skip to content
Nickolas Muray | American born in Hungary, 1892 - 1965

A renowned commercial photographer who was among the first generation of color practitioners. He was a celebrated New York portraitist and advertising photographer who worked for Vogue, Vanity Fair, Harper's Bazaar, and others. Muray inaugurated a new era in 1931, when the June issue of Ladies' Home Journal reproduced two of his color photographs of beach wear, the first magazine reproduction to be made from an original four color print.

Betweeen 1920 and 1940, Nickolas Muray made over 10,000 portraits. Who would have thought that the one of Frida Kahlo, c. 1939, would bring him greater acknowledgment than any? But it did. The portrait, made in the winter of 1938-39, while Kahlo sojourned in New York, attending her exhibit at the Julien Levy Gallery, became the best known and loved portrait made by Nickolas Muray.

Muray and Kahlo were at the height of a ten-year love affair in 1939 when the portrait was made. Their affair had started in 1931, after Muray was divorced from his second wife and shortly after Kahlo's marriage to Mexican muralist painter Diego Rivera. It outlived Muray's third marriage and Kahlo's divorce and remarriage to Rivera by one year, ending in 1941. Muray wanted to marry, but when it became apparent that Kahlo wanted Muray as a lover, not a husband, Muray took his leave for good and married his fourth wife. He and Kahlo remained good friends until her death, in 1954.

After Kahlo received the portrait in Mexico, she wrote to Muray on June 3, 1939: "Nick darling, I got my wonderful picture you sent me, I find it even more beautiful than in New York. Diego says that it is as marvelous as a Piero de la Francesca. To me it is more than that, it is a treasure, and besides, it will always remind me that morning... [when] we went to your shop to take photos. This one was one of them. And now I have it near me. You will always be inside the magenta rebozo (on the left side)."

Muray's portraits of Frida Kahlo can be found in the permanent collections of the Frida Kahlo Museum, The George Eastman House, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.