A Nickolas Muray 3-color carbro portrait of actress Marlene Dietrich. Dietrich is in front of a Paul Gauguin painting in a white dress with ornate golden belt. She is striking a simialr pose as the native subject of Gauguin's painting.
Recto: Signed and dated by artist (white pencil). Verso: Muray label.
Nickolas Muray was born in Szeged, Hungary on February 15, 1892. Twelve years after his birth, Muray left his native town and enrolled in a graphic arts school in Budapest. Enrolling in art school was the first step on a road that would eventually lead him to study a photographic printing process called three-color carbro. In the course of his accomplished career, Muray would become an expert in this process and play a key role in bringing color photography to America.
While attending art school in Budapest, Muray studied lithography and photoengraving, earning an International Engraver's Certificate. Muray was also introduced to photography during this time period. His combined interest in photography and printmaking led him to Berlin, Germany to participate in a three-year color-photoengraving course. In Berlin, Muray learned how to make color filters, a first step in the craft that would one day become his trademark. Immediately after the completion of the course, Muray found a good job with a publishing company in Ullstein, Germany. However, the threat of war in Europe forced Muray to flee for America in 1913. Soon after his arrival in New York, Muray was working as a photoengraver for Condé Nast. His specialty was color separations and half-tone negatives.
By 1920, Muray had established a home for himself in the up-and-coming artists' haven of Greenwich Village. He opened a portrait studio out of his apartment and continued to work part time at his engraving job. Harper's Bazaar magazine gave Muray his first big assignment in 1921. The project was to photograph Broadway star Florence Reed. The magazine was so impressed with his photographs that they began to publish his work monthly. This allowed him to give up his part time job and work solely as a photographer. It did not take long for Muray to become one of the most renowned portrait photographers in Manhattan. Muray spent much of the early 1920s photographing the most famous and important personalities in New York at the time.
In his spare time Muray enjoyed fencing. In 1927, he won the National Sabre Championship and in 1928 and 1932, he was on the United States Olympic Team. During World War II, Muray was a flight lieutenant in the Civil Air Patrol.