Carmen Mondragon also known as Nahui Olin (1893-1978, Mexican)

Carmen Mondragon, Nahui Olin cat artist, cat artCarmen Mondragon also known as Nahui Olin (1893-1978, Mexican) was a painter, poet and artist’s model. Born Carmen Mondragon in the Tacubaya district of Mexico City, her father, the inventor of the Mondragon rife, was a diplomat, and she spent her youth in France. The family was exiled there after her father was found guilty of involvement in a coup against President Francisco Madero. She modelled for Diego Rivera in his La creación and also  posed nude for artists such as Edward Weston and Antonio Garduño. She was known for her intense beauty and large green eyes.

After marrying in 1913, she moved with her artist husband to Paris where they met Matisse, Picasso and Jean Cocteau.

In 1921, they moved back to Mexico City where Mondragon began to model for Rivera. Her marriage was not a happy one, and she soon met Dr. Atl, born Gerardo Murillo. In 1922, Dr. Atl gave Mondragon the name Nahui Olin, which refers to the fourth regenerative movement in the cycle of the cosmos in the Aztec calendar. Their relationship was tumultuous because of Dr. Atl’s cheating.  

Carmen Mondragon, Nahui Olin Self Portrait with Black Cat

Self Portrait with Black Cat

Olin’s behavior was seen as scandalous; she showed no guilt for nude modelling or her open sexuality. She made it clear that she was a free woman perhaps that’s why she loved cats and painted them. Afterall cats are known for their independence.

Black Cat Carmen Mondragon, Nahui Olin


She left Dr. Atl and promoted her work through gallery exhibitions and teaching art in the Mexico City public schools.

Carmen Mondragon, Nahui Olin Orange cat

In 1929, Olin met Captain Eugenio Agacino and travelled with him to Cuba and Spain and painted many pictures of them together. The affair ended with the death of Agacino in 1934 from food poisoning.

Gato en el jardín florido, Carmen Mondragón (Nahui Olin)

Gato en el jardín florido


Kittens with Fish, Carmen Mondragon, Nahui Olin


Tabby Cat, Carmen Mondragon, Nahui Olin


Two Cats, Nahui Olin, Carmen Mondragon

Sadly, no longer beautiful and called crazy, she was eventually shunned by society and died alone in Mexico City in the house she had grown up.  


Want to know more about the cat in literature, art and history? Then Revered and Reviled is the book for  you. Now available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. 


Revered and Reviled: A Complete History of the Domestic Cat, cat history, cats




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