Artists & Designers

Manuel Alvarez Bravo (1902-2002)

Mexican photographer Manuel Alvarez Bravo was born on February 4, 1902 in Mexico City. Coming from a family of writers and artists, he was interested in photography from an early age. Beginning in 1918, he studied music and painting at the Academia Nacional de Bellas Artes (National Academy of Fine Arts). In 1923, he studied with the Mexico-based German photographer Hugo Brehme and received his first camera, but Alvarez Bravo did not begin his professional photography until 1925.

Alvarez Bravo was introduced to the well-known circle of artists who were influential in Mexico’s cultural renaissance of the 1920s and 1930s, such as Tina Modotti, Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, and Rufino Tamayo. He also met Lola Álvarez Bravo who became a significant photographer, and the two married in 1924, separated in 1934, and divorced in 1938. His second wife was Doris Heyden, and he was married for a third time to French photographer Colette Alvarez Urbajtel, which lasted until his death.

In 1935, the artist's work was exhibited at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York and at Hull House in Chicago. Although he did not formally consider himself a surrealist, he was featured in The 1940 International Exhibition of Surrealism. Alvarez Bravo's photographs often exhibit fantasies or dreams and address themes of political turmoil and the Mexican Revolution, his cultural heritage and indigenous roots, as well as the dichotomy of Mexico City's urban landscape and modern city. He was a deeply influential figure in Latin American and contemporary Mexican photography, and he also made significant contributions as a teacher, filmmaker, publisher, and curator. Alvarez Bravo died on October 19, 2002 in Mexico City, at the age of 100.

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Related Multimedia

panel discussion in conjunction with Modern Masters of Mexico: The Gelman Collection (Frida Kahlo/Diego Rivera), October 8, 2000-January 28, 2001; Zamudio-Taylor is curatorial advisor for the Televisa Cultural Foundation and the Manuel Alvarez Bravo Photography Archives, Mexico City; Jimenez is featured in exhibition
panel discussion in conjunction with Modern Masters of Mexico: The Gelman Collection (Frida Kahlo/Diego Rivera), October 8, 2000-January 28, 2001; Zamudio-Taylor is curatorial advisor for the Televisa Cultural Foundation and the Manuel Alvarez Bravo Photography Archives, Mexico City; Jimenez is featured in exhibition
panel discussion in conjunction with Modern Masters of Mexico: The Gelman Collection (Frida Kahlo/Diego Rivera), October 8, 2000-January 28, 2001; Zamudio-Taylor is curatorial advisor for the Televisa Cultural Foundation and the Manuel Alvarez Bravo Photography Archives, Mexico City; Jimenez is featured in exhibition

Web Resources

  • Time
    Read a 2012 article about the photography of Manuel Alvarez Bravo, celebrating the 10th anniversary of his death.

  • The International Photography Hall of Fame
    Read more about the artist who was inducted into the International Photography Hall of Fame (IPHF).

  • New York Times
    Read a 1993 article interviewing Alvarez Bravo in his studio.
  • Jeu de Paume
    Watch a 2014 film produced by Terra Luna Films for Jeu de Paume magazine celebrating the artist and his work.
  • Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes (MPBA)
    Watch a 2013 video in Spanish (English subtitles) produced for a recent exhibition at the MPBA with curator Horacio Fernández.
  • Canal 22
    Watch a 2015 video in Spanish produced by Canal 22 Mexico City, and learn more about Alvarez Bravo and how he revolutionized Mexican art and photography.