Frida Kahlo and Miklós Muray

Besides being the lover of world-famous Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, Miklós Muray was a Hungarian-born American photographer and Olympic sabre fencer. He was also considered to be the master of the three-colour carbro process.

Történelmi Őrültek posted an interesting post about Miklós Muray on their Facebook page. He certainly lived a fascinating life.

His education and early life

Miklós Muray [born Miklós Mandl] was born in Szeged, Hungary in 1892.

Miklós Muray artist
Photo: By Carl Van Vechten

He attended a graphic arts school in Budapest, where he studied lithography, photoengraving, and photography. He also studies in Munich, then he took a three-year course in colour photoengraving in Berlin, where he learned to make colour filters. At the end of his course, he went to work for the publishing company Ullstein.

In 1913, with 25$ in his pocket, he travelled to the United States. He was 21 years old when he arrived on Ellis Island.

Even though he knew very little English, he got a job as a colour printer at a print shop in Brooklyn. He spent his evening learning English.

Art career

By 1920, Muray opened a portrait studio at his 2-room-apartment in Greenwich Village, while still working at his union job as an engraver. He worked in one room and lived in the other. In 1921, he received a commission from Harper’s Bazaar to do a portrait of Broadway actress Florence Reed. These photos and his unique style made him famous quite quickly.

Soon after, he was having photographs published each month in Harper’s Bazaar, but his photos also appeared in Vogue, Ladies’ Home Journal, and The New York Times.

He took photos of almost all of the biggest celebrities of New York City at that time. He also did fashion and advertising work.

His affair with Frida Kahlo

He met Mexican painter Miguel Covarrubias in 1923. He visited Covarrubias in Mexico in 1931, and this is when he met famous painter Frida Kahlo.

Miklós Muray and Frida Kahlo had an affair that lasted for almost 10 years. During this period, Muray divorced twice, and Frida Kahlo divorced then remarried Diego Rivera. Their affair ended in 1941. Muray wanted to ask Frida to marry her, but she only looked at him as a lover, so Muray took his leave for good. They remained friends until Frida’s death in 1954.

His best-known and most beloved portrait was of Frida Kahlo in 1938. Muray and Kahlo were at the height of a ten-year love affair in 1939 when the portrait was made.

Mexican artist Frida Kahlo exhibition opens in Budapest

Muray turned away from celebrity and theatrical portraiture, and become a pioneering commercial photographer, working for the biggest companies such as Lucky Strike or Coca-Cola. He became famous for his creation of many of the conventions of colour advertising.

Lucky strike cigarette ad
Girl in Red, 1936 advertising photo for Lucky Strike cigarettes


His last important public portraits were of Dwight David Eisenhower in the 1950s. During World War II, he taught photography at New York University.

Fencing career

Muray was not only a brilliant artist, but he was quite the sportsman too. He competed for the United States at the 1928 and 1932 Summer Olympics in the sabre fencing events. Besides competing in the Olympics, he won several U.S. fencing championships and competitions. He won more than 60 medals in his lifetime. Muray represented the New York Athletic Club and was a lifelong fencer for the club.

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Source:; Wikipedia

1 comment
  1. If he remained in Hungary, he may have died during WWII and if not, we would probably not know him today. Ezceptional people with talents are seldom appreciated in Hungary during their life. Once they become famous abroad and die, Hungary claims the fame for them.

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