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Tina Modotti (Italian, 1896-1942)


Also known as:  Modotti, Assunta Luigia; Assunta Adelaide Luigia

Birth Place: Udine (Udine province, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy)


Who was photographer Tina Modotti?

Tina Modotti was a political activist and photographer whose work in Mexico City is as prolific, vital, and revelatory as many of her peers, which included Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Jean Charlot. Modotti loved the people of Mexico and tried to blend the avant-garde with human interest pieces. She famously photographed much of the Mexican mural movement, documenting the murals of Diego Rivera and others of that important time in history. 

Later in her life, her work with murals became a fascination with architecture that led to some of her most vital work. She toured rural and urban Mexcio in the 1920s, photographing buildings for what would eventually become her groundbreaking book, Idols Behind Altars. Throughout the 1920s, Moldotti would continue her political work, photographing for political publications like El Machete as well as the German Communist Party’s magazine. Her work is now often divided into two eras, the romantic period and the revolutionary period, the latter of which spans the late twenties up until her death in 1942. 

What kind of art did Tina Modotti make?

Tina Modotti was a groundbreaking photographer who mixed a love of politics, the avant-garde, architecture, and the people of Mexico into photographs greater than the sum of their already impressive parts. Her work as an activist and photographer spanned three decades and included rubbing shoulders with some of the biggest artistic names of that time. She counted Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo as close personal friends, and her work often documented much of their work. She loved to experiment with interiors, flowers, and urban landscapes creating poetic images of the people of Mexico. While her work is often political, it never once lost the fragile humanity encapsulated in each and every photo. Modotti’s work is lyrical and brilliant, a testament to the power of art to enact change and affect people on their most fundamental levels. 

How did photographer Tina Modotti get started?

Tina Modotti began as an assistant to her uncle, Pietro Modotti at a small photography studio in Italy. From there, she immigrated to the US with her father, running a similar studio in San Francisco. It was during her time in SF that she met her creative partner, Margrethe Mather, and Edward Weston. Weston especially became an important part of her life, becoming a mentor and later lover of the young artist. Eventually she made her way to Mexico, joining the already vital art community of Mexico City. Her time there was extremely prolific and critically acclaimed. 

How much are Tina Modotti’s photos worth?

Tina Modotti’s work is often only sold privately or from galleries, so there isn’t an extensive auction record for her work. That said, when it has come up, it has sold for tens of thousands of dollars. Her piece Guadalupe Rivera Marin (1925) sold for $18,400 in 2002. The smart collector should be on the lookout for a Modotti piece when it becomes available. They are in high demand and should appreciate nicely in the coming years. 

Where to buy Tina Modotti photographs for sale?

See works for sale below. Why buy from Heritage? Art buyers feel confident because our experts know the market and put careful valuations on artwork for sale. We make the bidding process easier to help you expand your art collection.

How to value Tina Modotti photographs?

The best way to value art is to compare past auction prices for similar works. View past sale prices below. When you’re ready to sell, contact Heritage Auctions to request an auction estimate of the likely selling price at auction. If you need a formal written appraisal for estate planning or insurance, please contact our Appraisal Services department.

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