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Photographer Nickolas Muray was famous for his portraits of Hollywood beauties, his fabulous fencing skills and his romance with artist Frida Kahlo.
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Born in Szeged, Hungary, on February 15, 1892, Nickolas Muray moved to the United States in 1913. As a photographer, he was acclaimed for his portraits of celebrities, as well as the images he created for high-end advertisements and magazine spreads. Muray was also an Olympic fencer, bringing home a bronze medal in 1932. He was romantically involved with Mexican artist Frida Kahlo for many years.
Born in Szeged, Hungary, on February 15, 1892, famed photographer Nickolas Muray is known for his commercial images and for his numerous portraits of some of the 20th century's best-known performers, including Greta Garbo, Charlie Chaplin and Fred Astaire. Muray was also a championship-winning fencer who played on the U.S. team at the 1928 and 1932 Olympic Games. The son of a postal worker, he studied sculpture for a time before leaving school to go to work as an engraver.
After spending a few years in Germany, Muray moved to the United States in 1913, knowing about 50 words of English and carrying an International Engravers Certificate. He settled in New York City, finding work as a color separator and engraver for a Brooklyn company. In his own time, Muray began to study photography. Using a shared studio in New York’s Greenwich Village neighborhood, he started to build his own photography business. Landing his first big break, Muray sold a portrait of actress Florence Reed to Harper’s Bazaar in 1920.
Nearly overnight, Muray became an in-demand celebrity photographer, handling assignments from many leading publications. In 1926, Vanity Fair sent him to Europe to photograph the likes of artist Claude Monet and writer George Bernard Shaw. Muray also captured many other famous faces for other projects, ranging from dancer and choreographer Martha Graham to Presidents Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Working with public relations manager Edward L. Bernays, he created many iconic commercial images for Bernays' clients, such as Lucky Strike cigarettes. In 1930, he was given a contract with the publishing company behind the Ladies Home Journal, which resulted in his creation of the first natural color commercial photograph to appear in a U.S. magazine the following year.
Around this time, Muray met Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. The two developed an on- and off-again relationship that spanned a decade. It outlasted his third marriage to Monica O’Shea, whom he married in 1930. In 1937, Monica divorced Muray on the grounds of cruelty according to a report in The New York Times.
During most of their relationship, Kahlo was married to Mexican muralist Diego Rivera who also had a number of extramarital affairs. When Kahlo divorced Rivera in 1939, Muray hoped that he would be able to marry her.
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