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Platinum / Palladium print
8 1/2 by 7 1/2 in. (21.6 by 19.1 cm.)
Sotheby's - New York
175 Masterworks to celebrate 175 Years of Photography: Property from Joy of Giving Something Foundation, 11-12 December 2014, Lot: 47
Mexican Folkways, August - September 1926
Reinhard Schultz, et al., Tina Modotti: Photographien & Dokumente (Berlin: Sozialarchiv, 1989), p. 94
Valentina Agostinis, Tina Modotti: Gli Anni Luminosi (Pordenone, 1992), p. 107
Margaret Hooks, Tina Modotti: Photographer and Revolutionary (London, 1993), p. 122
Robert Miller and Spencer Throckmorton, Tina Modotti, Photographs (New York, 1997), pl. 19
Sarah M. Lowe, Tina Modotti: Photographs (New York, 1998), pl. 66
Aperture Masters of Photography: Tina Modotti (New York, 1999), p. 63
Tina Modotti and Edward Weston: Mexican Years (Throckmorton Fine Art, 1999), pl. 29
Patricia Albers, Shadows, Fire, Snow: The Life of Tina Modotti (New York, 1999), unpaginated
Tina Modotti moved to Mexico City in 1923 with her lover and photographic mentor Edward Weston. From the time of their arrival, the two became involved in the city’s artistic and political circles. Modotti’s embrace of Mexican culture was stronger than that of Weston, who, by turns inspired and exasperated by the country, remained focused foremost on the formal concerns of his photography. By contrast, Modotti’s sensitivity to the plight of the Mexican people and her involvement in radical politics became factors in much of her work. In Workers’ Parade, taken during a 1926 May Day demonstration, Modotti masterfully balances these social concerns with her aesthetic sensibilities. In it, the solidarity and strength of a crowd of Mexican workers is made manifest in a rhythmic, almost abstract composition.
The print offered here was given by Modotti to Alexandra Kollontai (1872-1952), Soviet minister to Mexico in 1926 and 1927. Kollontai became an active member of the Russian Social-Democratic Worker’s Party in 1898. An ardent and radical feminist, she campaigned tirelessly for women’s rights, advocated free love and the simplification of marriage and divorce procedures, and fought for the removal of social and legal stigmas attached to illegitimate children. She was the first female Soviet diplomat and served in Norway and Sweden, as well as Mexico.
Like Modotti, Kollontai loved Mexico and entered enthusiastically into Mexico City’s cultural life. A consummate diplomat, the well-dressed, elegant Kollontai mixed easily with the various strata of Mexican society, hosting black-tie dinners at the Russian embassy and at cultural events, among them the public screening of Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin. Modotti and Kollontai became close friends during this time, and upon Kollontai’s departure from Mexico, Modotti gave her this print, as well as Calla Lily, Elisa Kneeling, and her own portrait of the diplomat.
For an analysis of this photograph: Juliet Hacking (ed.), 2012, Photography: The Whole Story, (Prestel), pp. 242-243