The images were captured by Kahlo’s lover, the famed portrait photographer Nickolas Muray
A collection of “intimate and casual” images that capture Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and their diverse social circle are going up for auction for the first time. The photographs are taken by Nickolas Muray, the famed artist who was both Kahlo’s lover and collaborator.
The rarely seen collection of photographs will be up for auction at Sotheby’s in New York on April 5. Many of the pictures were taken of the couple in their home and among friends, giving viewers a unique glimpse into the lives of the art icons. The 78 photos feature composer Carlos Chavez, social realist artist Marian Greenwood, muralist Roberto Montenegro, actress Margo Albert, painter and writer Mai-Mai Sze, and Cristina Kahlo, Frida’s sister.
The pictures come as the Brooklyn Museum is currently showing Frida Kahlo: Appearances Can Be Deceiving, the first exhibition in the US to feature Kahlo’s clothing and personal ephemera.
Frida Kahlo used her art to explore her identity, as a lens through which to examine her Mexican heritage, politics and disability. She showcased key elements through her fashion and visual presentation, with the bold lip, bright dresses, unibrow, and braided hair that defined her look.
At the age of 18, Kahlo was badly injured in a bus accident, from which she would never fully recover. But it was during her difficult convalescence that she turned to self-portraiture and immersed herself in the escapism of her art. While many mark her work as part of the Surrealist movement, Kahlo preferred not to limit her muse, once saying, “the only thing I know is that I paint because I need to, and I paint whatever passes through my head without any other consideration”.
Kahlo was romantically involved with Mexian muralist Diego Rivera throughout her career – the relationship was often tumultuous. In 1931 she began an affair with Hungarian photographer Nickolas Muray after the pair met in Mexico City – Muray was a pioneer of colour photography in the US and a famed celebrity portrait photographer at the time. It was a romance that would span 10 years and countless photographs, with Kahlo the star of Muray’s pictures. It is thought Muray first began to photograph Kahlo in 1937, and long after their romance ended – across a decade, he photographed the artist at work, dealing with her injuries, with her husband and friends, and in beautifully candid moments. Kahlo was a fearless, self-assured muse.
“I wish I had magic in my hands I’d pick you up and carry you above the clouds into the sun and have a talk with the guy who supposedly created… the cactus, and the world around, the little pigs, and Diego, and you, and me, and Miguel,” Muray wrote in 1939 in a letter to Kahlo. “Maybe he would tell me the secret (of) how to make you well again so you could sing, and smile, love and play again as I have seen you before in the bright sun or in the dark night.”
Muray is known for the delicate, soft-focus style of his work. As a photographer for Vanity Fair, Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, Muray captured many of the socialites and artists of the time; this is one of his most expansive collections of work to ever hit auction, and remains a fascinating insight into Mexico’s cultural scene during the mid-twentieth century.
The collection will be up for auction online and at Sotheby’s New York from April 5