Martin Munkácsi - Photographs New York Wednesday, April 6, 2022 | Phillips

Create your first list.

Select an existing list or create a new list to share and manage lots you follow.

  • Provenance

    Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York
    Weinstein Gallery, Minneapolis

  • Exhibited

    Focus on Photography, Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park, California, 3 September – 25 October 2015

  • Catalogue Essay

    This dual portrait of artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera was taken by Martin Munkácsi at their famous home in Mexico. Designed by Juan O’Gorman, a student of Le Corbusier, their house was a meeting place for artists and the intelligentsia and was home to an exotic array of pets – spider monkeys, parrots, and Itzcuintli dogs – and a large collection of traditional Mexican art objects. Munkácsi had started his career as a picture-press photographer in Europe, and was known for his lively and dynamic sports images, before emigrating to the United States where he reinvented fashion photography and photographed the great and famous for American magazines.

    Munkácsi photographed the artists during an especially difficult year: Kahlo experienced her third miscarriage, underwent an operation on her leg, and was devastated after finding out that Rivera was having an affair with her sister. But Kahlo was an expert at hiding behind masks of her own construction (Rivera and her friends called her la gran ocultadora – the great concealer). In Munkácsi’s photograph, as in her 1931 painting Frida and Diego, Kahlo plays the role of demure Mexican wife. Wearing the traditional dress of Tehuana, with Pre-Columbian jewelry and a traditional hairstyle, she evokes the image of the paradigmatic Mexican woman. Although she wore this attire in part to please Rivera, it was also a political and cultural statement. In the post-revolutionary period of the Mexican Renaissance, Tehuana women represented an authentic, independent indigenous Mexican cultural heritage as well as a new future. In this photograph, Kahlo’s personal/political performance, as well as the intensity of her turbulent relationship with Rivera, are manifested in the self she presented to Munkácsi’s camera.

    Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) is often quoted as stating that ‘two accidents’ shaped her life – the first was the near-death automobile accident in 1925 which affected her health for the rest of her life; ‘the second accident’, Kahlo said, ‘was Diego’. Kahlo and Diego Rivera (1886-1957) were embroiled in a passionate but tumultuous relationship that involved extra-marital affairs and the couple marrying, divorcing, and marrying again. When they met, Rivera was already the most famous artist in Mexico, one of the big three of the muralist movement, together with Jose Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siquieros. Kahlo was known first and foremost as Rivera’s wife despite her formidable talent and wholly unique vision. In recent years, the true value of her work has been acknowledged and celebrated for its deep exploration of the self. Her captivating paintings, extraordinary life events, and distinctive personal style have made her a cult figure, now acclaimed as one of the most significant artists of the twentieth century.



Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera

Gelatin silver print.
13 1/4 x 10 5/8 in. (33.7 x 27 cm)
'5 Prospect Place, New York City, Murray Hill 4-2443' stamp (twice), a 'Photography Roto' stamp, signed and titled by Joan Munkácsi, the photographer's daughter, and annotated in other hands in pencil and crayon on the verso.

$20,000 - 30,000 

Sold for $30,240

Contact Specialist

Sarah Krueger
Head of Department, Photographs

Vanessa Hallett
Worldwide Head of Photographs and Chairwoman, Americas


New York Auction 6 April 2022