Man Ray (born Emmanuel Radnitzky; August 27, 1890 – November
18, 1976) was an American visual artist who spent most of his career
in France. He was a significant contributor to the
Dada and Surrealist
movements, although his ties to each were informal. He produced major
works in a variety of media but considered himself a painter above
all. He was best known for his photography, and he was a renowned
fashion and portrait photographer.
Man Ray is also noted for his work
with photograms, which he called "rayographs" in reference to
1 Life and career
1.1 Background and early life
1.2 First artistic endeavors
1.3 New York
1.6 Later life
3.1 By Man Ray
3.2 About Man Ray
4 Selected publications
5 See also
6 References and sources
7 External links
Life and career
Background and early life
Man Ray, 1913, Landscape (Paysage Fauve), watercolor on paper, 35.2 x
24.6 cm, Smithsonian American Art Museum
During 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's birth name was Emmanuel Radnitzky in South Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania, US, in 1890. He was the eldest child of Russian
Jewish immigrants Max, a tailor, and Minnie Radnitzky. He had a
brother, Sam, and two sisters, Dora and Essie, 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 antisemitism 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 name.
Man Ray, c. 1921–1922, Rencontre dans la porte tournante, published
on the cover (and page 39) of Der Sturm, Volume 13, Number 3, March 5,
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.
Mason Klein, curator of a
Man Ray exhibition at the Jewish Museum,
titled Alias Man Ray: The Art of Reinvention, suggests that the artist
may have been "the first Jewish avant-garde artist."
Man Ray was the uncle of the photographer Naomi Savage, who learned
some of his techniques and incorporated them into her own work.
First artistic endeavors
Man Ray, 1919, Seguidilla, airbrushed gouache, pen & ink, pencil,
and colored pencil on paperboard, 55.8 × 70.6 cm, Hirshhorn
Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
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. Man 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. The artist
remained in the family home over the next four years. During this
time, he worked steadily towards becoming a professional painter. Man
Ray earned money as a commercial artist and was a technical
illustrator at several
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.
Man Ray, 1920, Three Heads (
Joseph Stella and Marcel Duchamp, painting
bust portrait of
Man Ray above Duchamp), gelatin silver print, 20.7 x
15.7 cm, Museum of Modern Art, New York
Man Ray, 1920, The Coat-Stand (Porte manteau), reproduced in New York
Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray, April 1921
Man Ray, Lampshade, reproduced in 391, n. 13, July 1920
Man Ray, c. 1921–22, Dessin (Drawing), published on page 43 of Der
Sturm, Volume 13, Number 3, March 5, 1922
While living in New York City,
Man Ray was visually influenced by the
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 Her Shadows (1916).
Man Ray had his first solo show of paintings and drawings
after he had taken up residence at an art colony in Grantwood, New
Jersey, across the
Hudson River from New York City. His first
Dada object, an assemblage titled Self-Portrait, was exhibited
the following year. He produced his first significant photographs in
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.
Man Ray helped Duchamp make the Rotary Glass Plates, 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.
Man 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."
Man Ray met his first wife, the Belgian poet Adon Lacroix
(Donna Lecoeur) (1887–1975), in New York. They married in 1914,
separated in 1919, and formally divorced in 1937.
Man Ray, 1922, Untitled Rayograph, gelatin silver photogram, 23.5 x
In July 1921,
Man Ray went to live and work in Paris, France. He soon
settled in the
Montparnasse quarter favored by many artists. Shortly
after arriving in Paris, he met and fell in love with Kiki de
Montparnasse (Alice Prin), an artists' model and celebrated character
in Paris bohemian circles. Kiki was Man Ray's companion for most of
the 1920s. She became the subject of some of his most famous
photographic images and starred in his experimental films, Le Retour
à la Raison and L'Étoile de mer. In 1929, he began a love affair
with the Surrealist photographer Lee Miller. Miller left him in 1932.
For the next 20 years in Montparnasse,
Man Ray was a distinguished
photographer. Significant members of the art world, such as James
Joyce, Gertrude Stein, Jean Cocteau, Bridget Bate Tichenor, and
Antonin Artaud, posed for his camera.
Man Ray, 1929, A Night at Saint Jean-de-Luz, Modern Art Museum of the
City of Paris
The Misunderstood (1938), collection of the
Man Ray Estate
Man Ray was represented in the first Surrealist exhibition with Jean
Arp, Max Ernst, André Masson, Joan Miró, and
Pablo Picasso at the
Galerie Pierre in Paris in 1925. Important works from this time were a
metronome with an eye, originally titled Object to Be Destroyed, and
the Violon d'Ingres, a stunning photograph of Kiki de
Montparnasse, styled after the painter/musician Ingres. Violon
d'Ingres is a popular example of how
Man Ray could juxtapose disparate
elements in his photography to generate meaning.
In 1934, surrealist artist Méret Oppenheim, known for her fur-covered
teacup, posed nude for
Man Ray in a well-known series of photographs
depicting her standing next to a printing press.
With Lee Miller, his photographic assistant and lover, Man Ray
reinvented the photographic technique of solarization. He also created
a type of photogram he called "rayographs", which he described as
Man Ray directed a number of influential avant-garde short films,
known as Cinéma Pur. He directed
Le Retour à la Raison
Le Retour à la Raison (2 mins,
Emak-Bakia (16 mins, 1926);
L'Étoile de Mer (15 mins, 1928);
Les Mystères du Château de Dé (27 mins, 1929).
Man Ray also
Marcel Duchamp with the cinematography of his film Anemic
Cinema (1926), and Ray personally manned the camera on Fernand
Ballet Mécanique (1924). In René Clair's film Entr'acte
Man Ray appeared in a brief scene playing chess with Duchamp.
Duchamp, Man Ray, and
Francis Picabia were friends and collaborators.
The three were connected by their experimental, entertaining, and
Salvador Dalí and
Man Ray in Paris, on June 16, 1934 making "wild
eyes" for photographer Carl Van Vechten
Man Ray was forced to return from Paris to the United States due to
the Second World War. He lived in Los Angeles from 1940 to 1951 where
he focused his creative energy on painting. A few days after arriving
in Los Angeles,
Man Ray met Juliet Browner, a first-generation
Romanian-Jewish lineage. She was a trained dancer, who
studied dance with Martha Graham, and an experienced artists'
model. The two married in 1946 in a double wedding with their friends
Max Ernst and Dorothea Tanning. In 1948
Man Ray had a solo exhibition
at the Copley Galleries in Beverley Hills, which brought together a
wide array of work and featured his newly painted canvases of the
Shakespearean Equations series.
Man Ray portrayed by Lothar Wolleh, Paris, 1975
Man Ray returned to Paris in 1951, and settled with Juliet into a
studio at 2 bis rue Ferou near the Luxembourg Gardens in St. Germain
des Pres, where he continued his creative practice across mediums.
During the last quarter century of his life, he returned to a number
of his iconic earlier works, recreating them in new form. He also
directed the production of limited-edition replicas of several of his
objects, working first with Marcel Zerbib and later Arturo Schwarz.
In 1963, he published his autobiography, Self-Portrait, which was
republished in 1999.
He died in Paris on November 18, 1976, from a lung infection. He was
interred in the Cimetière du
Montparnasse in Paris. Ray's epitaph
reads "unconcerned, but not indifferent". When
Juliet Browner died in
1991, she was interred in the same tomb. Her epitaph reads "together
again". Juliet organized a trust for his work and donated much of his
work to museums. Her plans to restore the studio as a public museum
proved too expensive; such was the structure's disrepair. Most of the
contents were stored at the Pompidou Center.
Man Ray received the Royal Photographic Society's Progress
Medal and Honorary Fellowship "in recognition of any invention,
research, publication or other contribution which has resulted in an
important advance in the scientific or technological development of
photography or imaging in the widest sense." In 1999, ARTnews
Man Ray one of the 25 most influential artists of the
20th century. The publication cited his groundbreaking photography,
"his explorations of film, painting, sculpture, collage, assemblage
and prototypes of what would eventually be called performance art and
ARTnews further stated that "
Man Ray offered artists
in all media an example of a creative intelligence that, in its
'pursuit of pleasure and liberty', unlocked every door it came to and
walked freely where it would." Seeking pleasure and liberty was one of
Ray's guiding principles, along with others such as doing things that
are socially prohibited.
In March 2013, Man Ray's photograph Noire et Blanche (1926) was
featured in the United States Postal Service's "Modern Art in America"
series of stamps.
By Man Ray
"It has never been my object to record my dreams, just the
determination to realize them." –
Julien Levy exhibition
catalog, April 1945.
"There is no progress in art, any more than there is progress in
making love. There are simply different ways of doing it." –
1948 essay, "To Be Continued, Unnoticed".
"To create is divine, to reproduce is human." – "Originals
Graphic Multiples", circa 1968; published in Objets de Mon Affection,
"I paint what cannot be photographed, that which comes from the
imagination or from dreams, or from an unconscious drive. I photograph
the things that I do not wish to paint, the things which already have
an existence." – Undated interview, circa 1970s; published in
Man Ray: Photographer, 1981.
"I have been accused of being a joker. But the most successful art to
me involves humor." — Undated interview, circa 1970s; published
in Man Ray: Photographer, 1981.
"An original is a creation motivated by desire. Any reproduction of an
original is motivated by necessity. It is marvelous that we are the
only species that creates gratuitous forms. To create is divine, to
reproduce is human."
"Of course, there will always be those who look only at technique, who
ask 'how', while others of a more curious nature will ask 'why'.
Personally, I have always preferred inspiration to information."
"I do not photograph nature. I photograph my visions."
About Man Ray
"Man Ray, n.m. synon. de Joie jouer jouir." (Translation: "Man Ray,
masculine noun, synonymous with joy, to play, to enjoy.") —
Marcel Duchamp, as the opening epigram for Man Ray's memoir
"With him you could try anything—there was nothing you were told not
to do, except spill the chemicals. With Man Ray, you were free to do
what your imagination conjured, and that kind of encouragement was
wonderful." – Artist and photographer, Naomi Savage, Man Ray's
niece and protégée, in a 2000 newspaper interview.
Man Ray is a youthful alchemist forever in quest of the painter's
philosopher's stone. May he never find it, as that would bring an end
to his experimentations which are the very condition of living art
expression." – Adolf Wolff, "Art Notes", International 8, no. 1
(January 1914), p. 21.
Man Ray was] a kind of short man who looked a little like Mister
Peepers, spoke slowly with a slight Brooklynese accent, and talked so
you could never tell when he was kidding." – Brother-in-law
Joseph Browner on his first impression of the artist; quoted in the
Fresno Bee, August 26, 1990.
Man Ray and
Tristan Tzara (1922). Champs délicieux: album de
photographies. Paris: [Société générale d'imprimerie et
Man Ray (1926). Revolving doors, 1916–1917: 10 planches. Paris:
Man Ray (1934). Man Ray: photographs, 1920–1934, Paris. Hartford,
Connecticut: James Thrall Soby.
Éluard, Paul, and
Man Ray (1935). Facile. Paris: Éditions G.L.M.
Man Ray and
André Breton (1937). La photographie n'est pas l'art.
Paris: Éditions G.L.M.
Man Ray and
Paul Éluard (1937). Les mains libres: dessins. Paris:
Éditions Jeanne Bucher.
Man Ray (1948). Alphabet for adults. Beverly Hills, California: Copley
Man Ray (1963). Self portrait. London: Andre Deutsch.
Man Ray and L. Fritz Gruber (1963). Portraits. Gütersloh, Germany:
Sigbert Mohn Verlag.
The Gift, 1921 sculpture
References and sources
^ "Rayograms by Man Ray". Time. April 18, 1932. Retrieved January 6,
^ a b c d e Baldwin, Neil. Man Ray: American Artist; Da Capo Press;
ISBN 0-306-81014-X (1988, 2000)
^ a b c d Herschthal, Eric (November 10, 2009), "Man Ray's Jewish
Identity: 'Concealing And Revealing'", The Jewish Week, archived from
the original on January 27, 2010, Klein suggests that Ray may have
even been the first Jewish avant-garde artist, though it is a tenuous
claim given both the movement and Man Ray's disavowal of ethnic
^ a b 1900 United States Federal Census
^ a b c d Francis Naumann; Conversion to Modernism: The Early Work of
Man Ray; Rutgers University Press; ISBN 0-8135-3148-9 (2003).
^ Milly Heyd; "Man Ray/Emmanuel Rudnitsky: Who is Behind the Enigma of
Isidore Ducasse?"; in Complex Identities: Jewish Consciousness and
Modern Art; ed. Matthew Baigell and Milly Heyd; Rutgers University
Press; ISBN 0-8135-2869-0 (2001).
^ Jules Heller; Nancy G. Heller (December 19, 2013). North American
Women Artists of the Twentieth Century: A Biographical Dictionary.
Routledge. ISBN 978-1-135-63882-5.
^ New York dada (magazine),
Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray, April, 1921,
Bibliothèque Kandinsky, Centre Pompidou
^ "The Collection Man Ray. The Rope Dancer Accompanies Herself with
Her Shadows. 1916". MoMA. Retrieved January 6, 2012.
^ Staff. "
Man Ray Is Dead in Paris at 86; Dadaist Painter and
Photographer", The New York Times, November 19, 1976. Retrieved
December 15, 2013. "His style changed in 1915 to 'reducing human
figures to flat-patterned disarticulated forms.' He was living at the
time in Ridgefield, N. J."
^ "IMAGINE – The Israel Museum's searchable collections database".
Imj.org.il. Retrieved January 6, 2012.
^ Man Ray, Aerograph, 1919, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
^ a b c "
Man Ray – Prophet of the Avant-Garde American Masters".
PBS. September 17, 2005. Retrieved January 6, 2012.
^ Lacroix's first marriage had been to Adolf Wolff, an immigrant
anarchist sculptor and poet, born in Brussels, Belgium.
^ "Christie's Photography Auction, London, May 1, 1996, Lot 213/Sale
Man Ray – Bridget Bate, 1941''". Christies.com. Retrieved
January 6, 2012.
^ Getty collection. Retrieved November 6, 2009
^ Ray, Man (1963), Self Portrait, Little, Brown and Company,
^ Penrose, Roland. Man Ray. 1. Boston: New York Graphic Society, 1975.
^ Bors, Chris (January 9, 2008), "Winter Museum Preview: Top 5
London", Art+Auction, retrieved April 23, 2008
^ Neil Baldwin,
Man Ray American Artist. Retrieved July 17, 2010
^ a b Flint, Peter B. (January 21, 1991). "Juliet Man Ray, 79, The
Artist's Model And Muse, Is Dead". The New York Times. Retrieved
December 3, 2014.
^ Andrew Strauss, "To Be Continued Unnoticed: Mathematics and
Shakespeare in Hollywood," in Wendy A. Grossman, et al., Man
Ray—Human Equations: A Journey from Mathematics to Shakespeare,
Hatje Cantz, 2015
^ Neil Baldwin, Man Ray: American Artist, p. 278
^ Ray, Man (April 1, 1999). Self Portrait:
Man Ray (Paperback)format=
requires url= (help) (First ed.). Bulfinch.
^ Wilson, Scott. Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000
Famous Persons, 3d ed.: 2 (Kindle Locations 38837-38838). McFarland
& Company, Inc., Publishers. Kindle Edition.
^ "Progress Medal". Royal Photographic Society. 1974. Retrieved
December 2, 2017.
^ Coleman, A. D. "Willful Provocateur"; ARTnews, May 1999.
^ Ray, Man (1998). "Plates". In Weston Naef. Man Ray: Photographs from
the J. Paul Getty Museum (Print book) (2nd ed.). Los Angeles:
Christopher Hudson. p. 14. ISBN 0-89236-511-0. Retrieved
April 24, 2012.
Alexandrian, Sarane. Man Ray; J. P. O'Hara; ISBN 0-87955-603-X
Allan, Kenneth R. "Metamorphosis in 391: A Cryptographic Collaboration
by Francis Picabia, Man Ray, and Erik Satie" in Art History 34, No. 1
(February 2011): 102–125.
Baldwin, Neil. Man Ray: American Artist; Da Capo Press;
ISBN 0-306-81014-X (1988, 2000).
Coleman, A. D. "Willful Provocateur"; ARTnews, May 1999.
Foresta, Merry, et al. Perpetual Motif: The Art of Man Ray.
Washington: National Museum of American Art; New York: Abbeville
Grossman, Wendy A., Adina Kamien-Kazhdan, Edouard Sebline, and Andrew
Strauss.Man Ray—Human Equations: A Journey From Mathematics to
Shakespeare; Hatje Cantz; ISBN 978-3775739207 (2015).
Heyd, Milly. "Man Ray/Emmanuel Radnitsky: Who is Behind the Enigma of
Isidore Ducasse?"; in Complex Identities: Jewish Consciousness and
Modern Art; ed. Matthew Baigell and Milly Heyd; Rutgers University
Press; ISBN 0-8135-2869-0 (2001).
Klein, Mason. Alias Man Ray: The Art of Reinvention; Yale University
Press; ISBN 978-0300146837 (2009).
Knowles, Kim, A Cinematic Artist: The Films of Man Ray. Bern; Oxford:
Peter Lang; ISBN 9783039118847 (2009).
Mileaf, Janine. "Between You and Me: Man Ray's Object to be
Destroyed," Art Journal 63, No. 1 (Spring 2004): 4–23.
Naumann, Francis. Conversion to Modernism: The Early Work of Man Ray;
Rutgers University Press; ISBN 0-8135-3148-9 (2003).
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Man Ray.
Wikiquote has quotations related to: Man Ray
Works by Man Ray, Official Licensing Archive. Searchable; over 1,000
Man Ray Trust
Man Ray at the Museum of Modern Art
Works by or about
Man Ray at Internet Archive
Man Ray at
LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
Man Ray short films
Man Ray on IMDb
Man Ray letters and album, 1922–1976.[permanent dead link] Research
Library at the Getty Research Institute. Los Angeles
Man Ray in the National Gallery of Australia's Kenneth Tyler
Man Ray in American public collections, on the French Sculpture Census
Man Ray at The Jewish Museum
Gordon Onslow Ford
E. L. T. Mesens
Toni del Renzio
James F. Walker
British Surrealist Group
Bureau of Surrealist Research
Chicago Surrealist Group
Dau al Set
Fighting Cock Society
The Surrealist Group in Stockholm
ISNI: 0000 0003 6863 4715
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