Image Courtesy: Google Doodle

Tina Modotti, (16 August 1896 – 5 January 1942) was an Italian photographer, model, actress, and revolutionary political activist affiliated with the Comintern. She departed from Italy in 1913 and relocated to the United States, where she settled in San Francisco along with her father and sister. During her time in San Francisco, Modotti engaged in modeling initially and subsequently pursued a career in photography. In 1922, she made the move to Mexico, where she became an active participant in the Mexican Communist Party.

Early Life

Assunta Adelaide Luigia Modotti Mondini was born in Udine, Friuli, Italy. Her mother, Assunta, worked as a seamstress, while her father, Giuseppe, was employed as a mason. Following a period spent in Austria, where her parents worked as migrant laborers, the family returned to Udine. During her youth, Modotti found employment in a textile factory. At the age of 16, in 1913, she embarked on a journey to the United States to join her father in San Francisco, California. Departing from Genoa on June 24 aboard the SS Moltke, she traveled alone. Her arrival at Ellis Island took place on July 8. At that time, she declared herself to be single, standing at a height of five feet one inch. She indicated being in sound mental and physical health and identified herself as a student.

Acting Career

Intrigued by the performing arts scene fostered by the Italian immigrant community in the San Francisco Bay Area, Modotti explored acting. She took part in various plays, operas, and silent films during the late 1910s and early 1920s, additionally serving as a muse for artists. In 1917, she crossed paths with Roubaix “Robo” de l’Abrie Richey, an artist and poet previously known as Ruby Ritchie, originally from Oregon. By 1918, Modotti had embarked on a romantic relationship with Roubaix and relocated with him to Los Angeles to pursue opportunities in the motion picture industry. Despite cohabiting and living together as a couple, they did not formalize their union through marriage. The 1920 Los Angeles township census listed Modotti as a U.S. citizen. Often cast in roles depicting a femme fatale, her filmography peaked with her participation in the 1920 movie “The Tiger’s Coat,” while she also took on minor roles in two other films.


In 1942, at the age of 45, Tina Modotti passed away due to heart failure while en route home in a taxi from a dinner hosted by Hannes Meyer in Mexico City. Some have considered her demise as surrounded by suspicious circumstances. Following her death, Diego Rivera suggested that Vidali might have orchestrated it, positing that Modotti potentially possessed sensitive information regarding Vidali’s activities in Spain, including alleged executions numbering around 400. However, an autopsy confirmed that her demise resulted from natural causes, specifically congestive heart failure.

On 16 August 2017, a Google Doodle was created to celebrate Tina Modotti’s 121st Birthday.

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