Man Ray (born Emmanuel Radnitzky) was an American modernist artist who spent most of his career in Paris, France. As a painter, writer, sculptor, photographer, and filmmaker, he is best known for his intimate association with the French Surrealist group in Paris during the 1920s and 30s, particularly for his highly inventive and unconventional photographic images.
BackgroundDuring his career as an artist, Man Ray allowed few details of his early life or family background to be known to the public. He even refused to acknowledge that he ever had a name other than Man Ray.
Man Ray was born as Emmanuel Radnitzky in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. in 1890. He was the eldest child of Russian Jewish immigrants. He had a brother and two sisters, the youngest born in 1897 shortly after they settled in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. In early 1912, the Radnitzky family changed their surname to Ray. Man Ray's brother chose the surname in reaction to the ethnic discrimination and anti-Semitism prevalent at the time. Emmanuel, who was called "Manny" as a nickname, changed his first name to Man and gradually began to use Man Ray as his combined single name.
Man Ray's father worked in a garment factory and ran a small tailoring business out of the family home. He enlisted his children to assist him from an early age. Man Ray's mother enjoyed designing the family's clothes and inventing patchwork items from scraps of fabric. Man Ray wished to disassociate himself from his family background, but their tailoring left an enduring mark on his art. Mannequins, flat irons, sewing machines, needles, pins, threads, swatches of fabric, and other items related to tailoring appear in almost every medium of his work. Art historians have noted similarities between Ray's collage and painting techniques and styles used for tailoring.
- Man Ray displayed artistic and mechanical abilities during childhood. His education at Brooklyn's Boys' High School from 1904 to 1909 provided him with solid grounding in drafting and other basic art techniques. While he attended school, he educated himself with frequent visits to the local art museums, where he studied the works of the Old Masters. After his graduation, Ray was offered a scholarship to study architecture but chose to pursue a career as an artist. Ray's parents were disappointed by their son's decision to pursue art, but they agreed to rearrange the family's modest living quarters so that Ray's room could be his studio. Ray remained in the family home over the next four years. During this time, he worked steadily towards becoming a professional painter. Ray earned money as a commercial artist and was a technical illustrator at several Manhattan companies.
- The surviving examples of his work from this period indicate that he attempted mostly paintings and drawings in 19th-century styles. He was already an avid admirer of contemporary avant-garde art, such as the European modernists he saw at Alfred Stieglitz's "291" gallery and works by the Ashcan School. However, with a few exceptions, he was not yet able to integrate these trends into his own work. The art classes he sporadically attended—including stints at the National Academy of Design and the Art Students League—were of little apparent benefit to him. When he enrolled in the Ferrer School in the autumn of 1912, he began a period of intense and rapid artistic development.
While living in New York City, Man Ray was visually influenced by the 1913 Armory Show and galleries of European contemporary works. His early paintings display facets of cubism. After befriending Marcel Duchamp, who was interested in showing movement in static paintings, his works began to depict movement of the figures. An example is the repetitive positions of the dancer's skirts in The Rope Dancer Accompanies Herself with Shadows (1916).
In 1915, Man Ray had his first solo show of paintings and drawings. His first proto-Dada object, an assemblage titled Self-Portrait, was exhibited the following year. He produced his first significant photographs in 1918.
Man Ray abandoned conventional painting to involve himself with Dada, a radical anti-art movement. He started making objects and developed unique mechanical and photographic methods of making images. For the 1918 version of Rope Dancer, he combined a spray-gun technique with a pen drawing. Like Duchamp, he did readymades—ordinary objects that are selected and modified. His Gift readymade (1921) is a flatiron with metal tacks attached to the bottom, and Enigma of Isidore Ducasse is an unseen object (a sewing machine) wrapped in cloth and tied with cord. Aerograph (1919), another work from this period, was done with airbrush on glass.
In 1920, Ray helped Duchamp make the Rotary Glass Plates, his first machine and one of the earliest examples of kinetic art. It was composed of glass plates turned by a motor. That same year, Man Ray, Katherine Dreier, and Duchamp founded the Société Anonyme, an itinerant collection that was the first museum of modern art in the U.S.
Ray teamed up with Duchamp to publish one issue of New York Dada in 1920. For Man Ray, Dada's experimentation was no match for the wild and chaotic streets of New York. He wrote that "Dada cannot live in New York. All New York is dada, and will not tolerate a rival."
In July 1921, Man Ray went to live and work in Paris, France. He soon settled in the Montparnasse quarter favored by many artists.
Paris both rewarded and disappointed him. Welcomed by the Dadaists as a precursor, he fell immediately into their social scene. His first show, under dada auspices, however, proved that Paris also offered no market for his paintings. But commissions for portrait and fashion photography soon assured him a livelihood and allowed him to create images that established his reputation as a master photographer. While Man Ray never quite overcame his prejudice that photography rated below painting as an art form, he, in fact, maintained his avant-garde reputation in large part through the invention, or more strictly the reinvention (since Fox Talbot had done them in the 1830's) of the photogram, the cameraless photograph created by placing objects on photosensitive paper and exposing them to light.
With his rayographs, as Man Ray called them, he had, said writer Jean Cocteau, unlearned painting by making "paintings with light." To Tristan Tzara, a leader in the dada movement, he had transformed a machine-age art from mechanical to mysterious: common objects were "set, softened, and filtered like a head of hair through a comb of light." He further removed photography from any suspicion that it offered an objective rendering of the world by perfecting solarization, which created demarcating lines around images by controlled introduction of light during the developing process. Man Ray's reputation among French artists as well as in the fashion industry grew even as American critics, dubious about photography as art, viewed him as an illusionist, a trickster, and an entrepreneur.
His success, however, was undeniable. The subjects of his portraits included Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Gertrude Stein, Francis Poulenc, and Ernest Hemingway in the arts as well as such social notables as Nancy Cunard and the Marquise Casati, whose double-exposed face with two pairs of eyes both pleased its subject and became a surrealist icon. His several experimental films commanded enthusiastic audiences among the Paris literati and remain a subject for scholars of the film. His images of women--nudes, faces, complex distortions, punning surreal compositions, such as the famous Le Violon d'Ingres (1924) with its violin F-shaped sound holes on his model's naked back--remain among his most influential works. His art appeared frequently both in exhibitions and in various magazines, ranging from avant-garde publications to Vogue and Harper's Bazaar.
Man Ray earned a good living and generally enjoyed his expatriate life in the Paris art community.
The return to the United States, where Man Ray had never gained acceptance as an artist, was difficult. He stayed only briefly in New York City, largely avoiding the art world, and soon migrated to Los Angeles. There, in the "beautiful prison" of California, as he described it, he found respect as a pioneer of modernism, opportunities to paint and to exhibit his work, and a few admirers who bought enough of his work to keep him going.
During the next quarter century Man Ray continued to paint, to make objects, to commission replicas of his objects ("To create is divine," he wrote. "To reproduce is human."), to write--including an autobiography, Self Portrait, in 1963, and to cooperate in the monumental exhibitions of his work mounted with increasing frequency as his reputation as a creator of the modern style continued to grow. His place in art history was secured in the 1960's as dadaesque objects again flourished and photographic images gained acceptance as works of art. Major exhibitions in Paris in 1962, in Los Angeles in 1966, in Rotterdam in 1971, in Paris in 1972, and in New York in 1974 demonstrated renewed appreciation of his lengthy career.
- Black and white, 1926 photo
- Glass tears, 1932 photo
- Indestructible Object (or Object to Be Destroyed), 1923 sculpture
- The Enigma of Isidore Ducasse, 1920 sculpture
- Self-Portrait. New York: Little Brown, 1963 book
- Opera Grafica. Torino: L. Anselmo, 1973 book
- Man Ray: the Photographic Image. New York: Barron’s, 1977 book
- Photographs by Man Ray: 1920-1934. New York: Dover, 1980 book
- Man Ray: Photographs. New York: Thames & Hudson, 1982 book
- Objects of My Affection. New York: Thames & Hudson, 1987 book
- Retour a la raison. (1923) Film
- Emak Bakia. (1927) Film
- L’Etoile de Mer. (1927) Film
- Les Mysteres du Chateau de De. (1929) Film
Born August 27, 1890
Died November 18, 1976
|Игорь Календо||last changed||10/06/2013||view changes|
- Film: Les Mysteres du Chateau de De. (1929)
- Film: L’Etoile de Mer. (1927)
- Film: Emak Bakia. (1927)
- Film: Retour a la raison. (1923)
- book: Objects of My Affection. New York: Thames & Hudson, 1987
- book: Man Ray: Photographs. New York: Thames & Hudson, 1982
- book: Photographs by Man Ray: 1920-1934. New York: Dover, 1980
- book: Man Ray: the Photographic Image. New York: Barron’s, 1977
- book: Opera Grafica. Torino: L. Anselmo, 1973
- book: Self-Portrait. New York: Little Brown, 1963
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