Nickolas Muray

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Nickolas Muray
Nickolas Muray, 1933
Personal information
Full nameMiklós Mandl
Born15 February 1892
Szeged, Hungary
Died2 November 1965(1965-11-02) (aged 73)
New York City
Country United States
ClubNew York Athletic Club, the Washington Square Fencing Club, the Fencers Club, and Salle Santelli

Nickolas Muray (born Miklós Mandl;[1] 15 February 1892 – 2 November 1965) was a Hungarian-born American photographer and Olympic saber fencer.

Early and personal life[edit]

Muray was born in Szeged, Hungary, and was Jewish.[2][3][4] His father Samu Mandl was a postal worker, and his mother Klara Lovit was a homemaker.[5] In 1894 his family moved to Budapest.[5] He attended a graphic arts school in Budapest, where he studied lithography, photoengraving, and photography.[5] After earning an International Engraver's Certificate, Muray took a three-year course in color photoengraving in Berlin, where, among other things, he learned to make color filters. At the end of his course he went to work for the publishing company Ullstein-Verlag.[5]

His first wife was Hungarian literary figure Ilona Fulop, but they divorced.[6] He then married Leja Gorska in 1921, but they also divorced.[6] Muray in June 1930 married Monica O’Shea, who was in the advertising business, and they ultimately divorced.[6] On 23 July 1942, he married his last wife, Margaret Schwab.[6] He had a decade-long on-and-off liaison with artist Frida Kahlo.[6]

Art career[edit]

Girl in Red, 1936 advertising photo for Lucky Strike cigarettes
Cover photo of Joan Caulfield for McCall's Magazine, 1941
Woman in cell, playing solitaire, ca. 1950

In 1913 Muray sailed to New York City, and was able to find work as a color printer in Brooklyn.[5]

By 1920, Muray had opened a portrait studio at his home in Greenwich Village, while still working at his union job as an engraver.[5] In 1921 he received a commission from Harper's Bazaar to do a portrait of the Broadway actress Florence Reed; soon after he was having photographs published each month in Harper's Bazaar, and was able to give up his engraving job. In 1922 he also made a portrait of the dancer Desha Delteil.

Muray quickly became recognized as an important portrait photographer, and his subjects included most of the celebrities of New York City. In 1926, Vanity Fair sent Muray to London, Paris, and Berlin to photograph celebrities, and in 1929 hired him to photograph movie stars in Hollywood. He also did fashion and advertising work. Muray's images were published in many other publications, including Vogue, Ladies' Home Journal, and The New York Times.[7][8]

Between 1920 and 1940, Muray made over 10,000 portraits. His 1938 portrait of Frida Kahlo, made while Kahlo sojourned in New York, attending her exhibit at the Julien Levy Gallery, became the best known and loved portrait made by Muray.[9] Muray and Kahlo were at the height of a ten-year love affair in 1939 when the portrait was made. Their affair had started in 1931, after Muray was divorced from his second wife and shortly after Kahlo's marriage to Mexican muralist painter Diego Rivera. It outlived Muray's third marriage and Kahlo's divorce and remarriage to Rivera by one year, ending in 1941. Muray wanted to marry, but when it became apparent that Kahlo wanted Muray as a lover, not a husband, Muray took his leave for good and married his fourth wife, Peggy (Margaret) Muray.[10] He and Kahlo remained good friends until her death, in 1954.[11]

After the market crash in 1929, Muray turned away from celebrity and theatrical portraiture, and become a pioneering commercial photographer, famous for his creation of many of the conventions of color advertising.[5][12] He was considered the master of the three-color carbro process.[12] His last important public portraits were of Dwight David Eisenhower in the 1950s.[citation needed]

During World War II, he taught photography at New York University.[6][13]

Fencing career[edit]

Muray competed for the United States at the 1928 and 1932 Summer Olympics (when he came in fourth in sabre team) in the sabre fencing events.[5][14] He won the US Team Saber National Championship in 1927 and 1928, and the National Saber Championship in 1929.[5] In 1935 and 1936 he won the National Foil Team Championship.[5] He won the Metropolitan Saber Fencing Championship in 1934, 1942, 1950, and 1951.[5] In addition to the NYAC, he fenced for the Washington Square Fencing Club, the Fencers Club, and Salle Santelli, representing each one during his career.[5]

Muray represented the New York Athletic Club and was a lifelong fencer for the club. He suffered a heart attack on 9 February 1961, four years prior to his death while fencing at the club, and was saved through the efforts of a fellow fencer and physician Dr. Barry Pariser who performed heart massage.[5] On the second occasion in the very same fencing room Muray was struck again in a final and fatal attack on 2 November 1965.[5][6] There is a plaque in his honor on display at the fencing room dedicated to his memory.[citation needed] In his lifetime he had won over 60 fencing medals.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Nyugati Hírlevél 109. szám, 2008. március 1". Retrieved 2012-08-19.
  2. ^ Nickolas Muray — The official site for information about portrait photographer Nickolas Muray, his life and his photography. Showcasing upcoming exhibits and his iconic photog...
  3. ^ Frida Kahlo's Jewish Lover – The Forward
  4. ^ I Will Never Forget You: Frida Kahlo and Nickolas Muray - Salomon Grimberg, Nickolas Muray
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o I Will Never Forget You: Frida Kahlo and Nickolas Muray - Salomon Grimberg, Nickolas Muray
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Muray, Nickolas – US Fencing Hall of Fame
  7. ^ Paul Outerbridge: Command Performance - Paul Martineau, Paul Outerbridge
  8. ^ Muray's Celebrity Portraits of the Twenties and Thirties: 135 Photographs - Nickolas Muray
  9. ^ frida kahlo
  10. ^ Nickolas Muray papers, 1911-1978, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution
  11. ^ The Covarrubias Circle: Nickolas Muray's Collection of Twentieth-Century ... - Peter Mears
  12. ^ a b "Nickolas Muray on Flickr Commons". Flickr. 2008-12-20. Archived from the original on 2009-03-15. Retrieved 2012-08-19.
  13. ^ A Finding Aid to the Nickolas Muray papers, 1910-1978 | Digitized Collection | Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution
  14. ^ "Nickolas Muray Olympic Results". Archived from the original on 2020-04-17. Retrieved 2010-05-01.

External links[edit]