In 1913 Tina Modotti left her native Italy for San Francisco, becoming a star of the local Italian theatre before marrying the romantic poet-painter Roubaix de I'Abrie Richey. By 1920, she had embarked on a Hollywood film career and immersed herself in bohemian Los Angeles, beginning an intense relationship with the respected American photographer, Edward Weston. On a trip to Mexico in 1922 to bury her husband, she met the Mexican muralists and became enthralled with the burgeoning cultural renaissance there.
Increasingly dissatisfied with the film world, she persuaded Weston to teach her photography and move with her to Mexico. Her Mexico City homes became renowned gathering places for artists, writers and radicals, where Diego Rivera courted Frida Kahlo. Turning her camera to record Mexico in its most vibrant years, her photographs achieve a striking synthesis of artistic form and social content. Her contact with Mexico's muralists including a brief affair with Rivera, led to her involvement in radical politics.
In 1929, she was framed for the murder of her Cuban lover, gunned down at her side on a Mexico City street. A scapegoat of government repression, she was publicly slandered in a sensational trial before being acquitted. Expelled from Mexico in 1930, she went to Berlin and then to the Soviet Union, where she abandoned photography for a political activism that brought her into contact with Sergei Eisenstein, Alexandra Kollontaii, La Pasionaria, Ernest Hemingway and Robert Capa. Returning to Mexico incognito in 1939, she died three years later."
(Excerpt from: Tina Modotti - Photographer and revolutionary by Margaret Hooks)
Poet Pablo Neruda composed Tina Modotti’s epitaph, part of which can also be found on her tombstone.
- Pure your gentle name, pure your fragile life,
- bees, shadows, fire, snow, silence and foam,
- combined with steel and wire and
- pollen to make up your firm
- and delicate being.
- 2010 Tina Modotti Virtual Gallery: Learn more about her here.