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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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Those hopes were soon dashed—she remarried Rivera the following year. Despite his disappointment, Muray remained on friendly terms with Kahlo. He took numerous portraits and photographs of Kahlo over years, some of which used the Carbro technique, a type of carbon pigment process for making color prints which he perfected.
During his career, Muray took more than 10,000 portraits and did countless commercial photography projects. He worked on advertisements for such companies as General Electric,
Sara Lee, American Cyanamid and Kraft.
In addition to photography, Muray excelled at the sport of fencing. Legend has it that he and artist Jacques La Salle were supposed to fight a duel with rapiers in 1920. On the day of the duel, the two met at the same site where Alexander Hamilton was killed by Aaron Burr in a similar challenge. In this case, however, their alternates decided against bringing the necessary weapons for the duel, and the artists settled their conflict without any violence, according to The New York Times. While that match never happened, Muray was triumphant in numerous other fencing bouts. He was the U.S. saber champion from 1927-1928. In 1928, Muray competed at the Summer Olympic Games as part of the U.S. fencing team. He made the team again for the 1932 Olympics, which brought home the bronze medal in the team competitions in foil and épée events.
For the rest of his life, Muray remained active in the sport. He died on November 2, 1965, after collapsing during a fencing match at the New York Athletic Club. He was survived by his fourth wife, Margaret Schwab Muray, and their two children, Nicholas Christopher and Mimi.
In 1988, his daughter Mimi donated some of his papers to the Archive of American Art. His work is also part of the photography collection of the George Eastman House. Today, interest in his images remains strong. His portraits of Frida Kahlo are currently being featured in a traveling exhibit. A book published in 2004, titled "I Will Never Forget You...: Frida Kahlo to Nickolas Muray" by Saloman Grimberg, details their friendship from 1931 to Kahlo's death in 1954. It also serves as a catalog to the exhibition, and is the most thorough reference book to date on Muray's life.
Muray's work has served as inspiration for many later artists, such as Irving Penn, Diane Arbus, and Annie Leibovitz. With his own unique style and innovative techniques, Muray has earned his place in the history of photography.
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