Kati Horna

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Kati Horna
Kati Horna.jpg
Katalin Deutsch

(1912-05-19)May 19, 1912
DiedOctober 19, 2000(2000-10-19) (aged 88)
Notable work
Spouse(s)José Horna

Kati Horna (May 19, 1912 - October 19, 2000), born Katalin Deutsch,[1][2] was a Hungarian-born Mexican photojournalist, surrealist photographer and teacher. She was born in Budapest and lived in France, Berlin, Spain, and later was naturalized Mexican. Most of her work was lost during the Spanish Civil War.[3] She was also one of the most influential women artists/photographers of her time. Through her photographs she was able to change the way that people viewed war. One way that Horna was able to do this was through the utilization of a strategy called "gendered witnessing". Gendered witnessing consisted of putting a more "feminine" view on the notion that war was a predominantly masculine thing. Horna became a legendary photographer after taking on a woman’s perspective of the war, she was able to focus on the behind the scenes, which led her to portraying the impact the war had on women and children. One of her most striking images is the Tête de poupée [4]Horna worked for various magazines including Mujeres and S.NOB , in which she published a series of Fétiches ; but even her more commercial commissions often contained surreal touches[4]


Early years[edit]

Kati Horna was born in Hungary in 1912 during an unstable sociopolitical period; as a result of the First World War, Budapest - where Horna grew up - suffered severe economic setbacks which continued in the years between the wars.[5] Horna was born to an upper-middle-class Jewish family. [6]

Her father was a banker from the prosperous part of Buda[7] and when he died, photography offered Horna the means to earn a living and the chance to fulfill her political ideals.[8] The surrounding violence, danger and injustice of that time influenced her ideology profoundly.

As a teenager, Horna lived in Berlin, where she met Bertolt Brecht and was influenced by Bauhaus, Surrealism, and Constructivist Lajos Kassak, whose views on photography as an agent of social change aligned with Horna's ideology. There was also a big influence when it came to Horna’s ideology and that was Karl Korsch, who trained her in radical politics, which added to her love for narrative photography. [9] [10]

At the age of twenty, Horna became an apprentice in the workshop of a renowned photographer József Pecsi. At this most prestigious school in Budapest, she learned basic photographic techniques.[7] She met Robert Capa (then by the name Endre Friedmann) as a teenager in Budapest, and the two photographers remained friends until Capa's death in 1954.[7] Some of the wars that Capa himself was able to capture included the Spanish Civil War and the Second Sino-Japanese War. [11] Capa favored working at the front lines of the War; capturing shots such as Falling Soldier [1936]. [12] Horna and Capa were part of the same left-wing political movement and photographed each other's portraits.[13] When Capa moved to Paris, she followed him in 1933, where she turned her attention to the life she saw around her in the streets and cafés of the French capital. Her series Reportage dans les Cafés de Paris (1934) captured her brilliant eye for irony and fun.[12][8] while she did several reportages for the French Agence Photo. Her widely known series Flea Markets (1933) and Reportage dans les Cafes de Paris (1934) are from this period. Besides photographing realistic scenes, she also ventured into more experimental works, closer to Surrealism. Even though Horna gained much popularity with her work, she preferred to stay out of the limelight and work for smaller organizations such as Umbral. [11] Before leaving Europe for Mexico, Horna met the man she would later marry: Jose Horna, who was a craftsman and a sculptor. [12]

Spanish Civil War[edit]

In 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, she moved to Barcelona, commissioned by the Spanish Republican government and the Confédération Générale du Travail, to document the war as well as record the everyday life of communities on the front lines, such as Aragón, Valencia, Madrid, and Lérida. She photographed elderly women, young children, babies and mothers, and was considered visionary for her choice of subject matter.[8] She was editor of the magazine Umbral (where she me José Horna). Kati Horna collaborated with other magazines, most of which were anarchic, such as Tiempos Nuevos, Libre-Studio, Mujeres Libres and Tierra y Libertad.[14] Her images of scenes from the civil war not only revealed her Republican sympathies but also gained her almost legendary status.[4]

Some of her photos were used as posters for the Republican cause.


With José Horna, Kati escaped to Paris in 1939 after being pushed out by the national socialist party, Paris is where Horna’s career took off after being inspired in the great amount of poverty that could be observed at the time. While in Paris she was a reporter for the Lutetia-Press. [15] Horna was also reunited with her childhood friend Robert Capa, who led her to not only find her great passion for poetic narrative and staged shots but also her recurrent theme of masks and dolls. [16]

Horna also left to Paris with a large collection of negatives that would remain unseen until 1979, when democracy in Spain was reestablished. During the Nazi occupation of France, the couple were married and later sought refuge in Mexico, where she met other artists who were also fleeing war-torn Europe: Remedios Varo, Benjamín Péret, Emeric Chiki Weisz, Edward James, Tina Modotti and Leonora Carrington.


Horna arrived in Mexico in October 1939, at the age of 27. Mexico was, for Kati Horna, her motherland and her patriotism was felt only for this country. She remained in Mexico for the rest of her life and was a contributor to magazines such as Todo (1939), Mapa (1940), Enigma (1941), El arte de cocinar (1944), Seguro Social (1944), among others.[17]

Nosotros magazine hired her as a full-time photographer in 1944. There she published series like "Títeres en la penitenciaría" [Puppets in the Penitentiary] or portraits of Alfonso Reyes in his library. In 1958, Horna was the chief photo editor of Mujeres magazine. During the second half of the 20th century she also did sporadic commissions for Revista de la Universidad de México, Mexico This Month, Tiempo, S.nob, Mujer de Hoy, Mujeres: Expresión Femenina, Revista de Revistas, Diseño, Vanidades, Arquitectura, Arquitectos de México, Obras.[18]

She also carried out more experimental projects that bear the imprint of surrealism.[19][20]

Architecture was another field that Kati Horna explored with interest. She collaborated with various architects like Luis Barragán, Carlos Lazo and Ricardo Legorreta, and documented buildings with historical value in order to provide a register of their conditions. Horna also published photos of recently inaugurated public buildings, like the Museo Nacional de Antropología [National Museum of Anthropology], Ciudad Universitaria [University Campus], Biblioteca Nacional [National Library]. In 1967, Kati Horna took photos of the Pre-Olympics for architect Pedro Ramírez Vázquez. Horna’s interest in architectural photography also expanded into capturing deteriorated and dilapidated buildings. This side of her photography harkens to her Surrealist connections as the subjects captured in these pieces allow for the viewers of said pieces to take part in their interpretation. [21] 

She was also a recognized professor at the Escuela Nacional de Artes Plásticas , the Academia de San Carlos and the Universidad Iberoamericana (between 1958 and 1963). Some of her most well-known works include What Goes in the Basket (1939), La Castañeda (1945), Fetiches (1962), Ode to Necrophilia (1962), Sucedió en Coyoacán (1962), Mujer y Máscara (1963), and Una Noche en el Sanatorio de Muñecas (1963).

Kati Horna died in October 2000. Her work has been included in numerous exhibitions in Mexico, Spain, and other countries.



  1. ^ Hayes, Fiona. "Review: Kati Horna, Jeu de Paume, Paris". The United Nations of Photography. Retrieved 2018-03-09.
  2. ^ Americas Society/Council of the Americas (August 16, 2016). "Told and Untold: The Photo Stories of Kati Horna in the Illustrated Press". Market Wired.
  3. ^ Brown, Kendall (2002). Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia. Detroit: Yorkin Publications. pp. 474–475. Retrieved March 4, 2016.
  4. ^ a b c https://public.ebookcentral.proquest.com/choice/publicfullrecord.aspx?p=634283}
  5. ^ "Budapest History – History of Budapest, Hungary". www.budapest.com. Retrieved 2016-03-05.
  6. ^ Simpson, Pamela H. (2011). "Review of Surreal Friends, Leonora Carrington, Remedios Varo and Kati Horna". Woman's Art Journal. 32 (1): 57–59. ISSN 0270-7993.
  7. ^ a b c "Kati Horna | About Kati". faculty.hope.edu. Retrieved 2016-03-05.
  8. ^ a b c "Kati Horna". Michael Hoppen Gallery. Retrieved 2016-03-05.
  9. ^ https://www.sothebys.com/en/slideshows/the-many-journeys-of-photographer-kati-horna-1
  10. ^ "Review: Kati Horna, Jeu de Paume, Paris". The United Nations of Photography. 2014-06-18. Retrieved 2018-03-09.
  11. ^ a b "Kati Horna | About Kati". faculty.hope.edu. Retrieved 2019-03-04.
  12. ^ a b c "Kati Horna | About Kati". faculty.hope.edu. Retrieved 2018-03-09.
  13. ^ Naggar, Carole. "Surrealist images of the Spanish Civil War". Time. Retrieved 2018-03-09.
  14. ^ MERCADO, DOLORES (2010-01-01). Women Artists of Modern Mexico: Frida's Contemporaries Mujeres artistas en el Mexico de la modernidad: Las contemporaneas de Frida. Chicago, IL: National Museum of Mexican Art. ISBN 9781889410050.
  15. ^ "Surrealist images of the Spanish Civil War". Time.
  16. ^ "Kati Horna | Hammer Museum". hammer.ucla.edu.
  17. ^ Horna, Kati (1995-01-01). Kati Horna: Recuento de una obra (in Spanish). México: CENIDIAP-INBA. ISBN 9789709157000.
  18. ^ Baki, Petar; Chévrier, Jean-François; Diego, Estrella de; Horna, Kati (2014-07-31). Kati Horna (Bilingual ed.). RMMuseo Amparo/Jeu de Paume. ISBN 9788415118732.
  19. ^ Fort, Ilene Susan; Arcq, Tere; Geis, Terri; Ades, Dawn; Buszek, Maria (2012-01-11). In Wonderland: The Surrealist Adventures of Women Artists in Mexico and the United States. Prestel USA. ISBN 9783791351414.
  20. ^ "Deconstructed: Kati Horna's Ode to Necrophilia". www.christies.com. Retrieved 2016-03-06.
  21. ^ Andrade, Lourdes (2001). "LAS PAREDES OYEN... Y HABLAN: Fotografías arquitectónicas de Kati Horna". Artes de México (56): 10–13. ISSN 0300-4953.

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