The Many Journeys of Photographer Kati Horna

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Kati Horna’s spectacular trajectory as a female photographer encompasses several cities. In a new selling exhibition in New York, Sotheby’s provides a comprehensive visual history of Horna’s inspiring and diverse travels. First, her native Budapest, then Berlin, and later Paris, where her unique aesthetic began taking form. In early 1937, shortly after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, Horna moved to Spain, where she was committed to the wartime revolutionary struggle of Spanish Anarchists. Horna finally settled in Mexico, where she spent the rest of her life. There, she became one of the most active photographers within the city’s effervescent cultural scene. In many of Horna’s photographs, reality and illusion intermingle seamlessly, serving as windows into fantastic worlds created from memories, anxieties and fantasies. “I am allergic to the question of where I am from. I fled Hungary, I fled Berlin, I fled Paris and I left everything behind in Barcelona,” Horna said in her final years of life. Click ahead to follow Horna’s many journeys through the photos she took along the way.  

Fantastic Rediscovered: Rare Photographs from the Estate of Kati Horna  
28 March–27 April | New York  

The Many Journeys of Photographer Kati Horna

  • © 2005 Ana María Norah Horna y Fernández. All rights reserved.
    Kati Horna, Untitled [Budapest], 1933.
    Born in Budapest in 1912, Horna had a privileged upbringing within an affluent Jewish family. She later joined the circle of the socialist poet and avant-garde theoretician Lajos Kassák. It was also in Budapest that she first learned photography from the renowned Hungarian photographer József Pécsi, whose style combined elements of Pictorialism with more current trends of New Vision photography.  

  • © 2005 Ana María Norah Horna y Fernández. All rights reserved.
    Kati Horna and Wolfgang Bürger (Wo-Ti), Untitled [Hitlerei series], 1936.
    During the early 1930s, Horna spent time in Berlin completing her training in radical politics under the wing of Karl Korsch, an influential Marxist intellectual. Horna’s lifelong distrust of totalitarian politics was shaped by her experiences in Berlin in the years leading up to Hitler’s rise – as was her fondness for the photo-essay and other narrative pictorial genres, which enjoyed great popularity in the illustrated press of the Weimar Republic’s final years.  

  • © 2005 Ana María Norah Horna y Fernández. All rights reserved.
    Kati Horna, Untitled [Marchés aux puces, Paris], 1933.
    Paris was where Horna’s photography career took off. Though the city proved a competitive environment for an inexperienced photographer, Horna later remembered her time there in the mid-1930s as an exhilarating period in which material hardships – in her own words, “a delirium of poverty” – nurtured powerful ideas within her. 


  • © 2005 Ana María Norah Horna y Fernández. All rights reserved.
    Kati Horna, Spanish Women Before the Revolution [also known as Stairway to Cathedral, Barcelona], 1938.
    In early 1937, shortly after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, Horna moved to Spain, where she committed her skills to the wartime revolutionary struggle of Spanish Anarchists. In Barcelona, she helped produce propaganda in support of the Anarchists’ cause. 


  • © 2005 Ana María Norah Horna y Fernández. All rights reserved.
    Kati Horna, Untitled [Storefront in Valencia], 1937.
    And in Valencia, Horna collaborated with such influential anarchist periodicals as Libre-Studio and Umbral, for which she also served as graphic editor. 

  • © 2005 Ana María Norah Horna y Fernández. All rights reserved.
    Kati Horna, Untitled [Unusual Architecture series, Mexico City], circa 1962.
    In late 1939, after years on the run across Europe, Horna settled in Mexico City where she lived until her death in 2000. If Horna’s creative universe was firmly grounded in her home at Mexico City’s Colonia Roma – a meeting place for artists and intellectuals – her most personal work points to dreams and misfortunes elsewhere. Though she finally felt at home in Mexico, a sense of longing for all she had lost as a young woman runs through her work as a maturing artist.

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