Man Ray | Original prints, lithographs, etchings and illustrated books


"You never asks a painter, which brushes he uses or a writer wich typewriter he uses. What matters is the idea, not the camera."

(Man Ray)



Man Ray, born Emmanuel Radnitzky (Philadelphia, 27 August 1890 - Paris, 18 November 1976), was an American painter, photographer and graphic exponent of Dadaism.

Despite being a painter, a manufacturer of objects and an author of avant-garde films (Le retour à la raison (1923), Anémic Cinéma with Marcel Duchamp (1925), Emak-bakia (1926), L'étoile de mer (1928) ), The mystères du chateau de dé (1929) precursors of the surrealist cinema) is known above all as a surrealist photographer, having made his first important photographs in 1918.

Emmanuel was born in Philadelphia to a family of Russian immigrants of Jewish origin. He grew up in New York where he completed his studies. He finished high school but refused a scholarship in architecture to devote himself to art. In New York he worked in 1908 as a designer and graphic artist. In 1912 he began to sign his works under the pseudonym "Man Ray", which means ray man. He bought his first camera in 1914, to photograph his works of art.

In 1915 the collector Walter Conrad Arensberg presented it to Marcel Duchamp, of which he would become a great friend. The three founded the Society of Independent Artists. [1]
In 1919 he painted his first airbrushes, images produced with an airbrush, a retouching tool commonly used for a graphic designer. In New York, with Marcel Duchamp he formed the American branch of the Dada movement that had begun in Europe as a radical rejection of traditional art. After some unsuccessful attempts and especially after the publication of a single issue of "New York Dada" in 1921, Man Ray stated that "the Dada can not live in New York".

In 1921 Duchamp returned to Paris. Man Ray, who had previously given up moving to France because of the great war, follows him. In Paris Duchamp introduced him to the most influential artists of France, including André Breton and Philippe Soupault. Soupault hosted in his bookstore (Librairie Six) the first exhibition of Man Ray, where the famous work Cadeau was exhibited, an iron on which nails had been glued, a typical example of its syntagmatic juxtaposition of objects without a logical link, but only "mental", paradoxical, controversial; in this case, decontextualizing the normal use "codified", until you find a very close allusive to the "negative". [1] The Parisian success of Man Ray is due to his ability as a photographer, especially as a portraitist. Famous artists of the time, such as James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, Jean Cocteau and many others, posed in front of his camera. [2]
In 1922 Man Ray produces his first frames, which he calls 'rayographs' (rayographies), or photographic images obtained by placing objects directly on the sensitive paper.

Man Ray discovered by chance the rayographies in 1921 [3]. While developing some photographs in the darkroom, a sheet of virgin paper, accidentally, ended up in the middle of the others and since he continued to appear nothing, rested, rather irritated, a series of glass objects on the sheet still soaked and turned on the light . The artist thus obtained deformed images, almost in relief on the black background. Through his rayographs, a term built on his surname, but which at the same time evokes the luminous drawing, he could probe and exalt the paradoxical and disturbing character of everyday life.

el 1924 officially born surrealism, Man Ray is the first surrealist photographer. The production of his research works goes hand in hand with the publication of his fashion photographs on Vogue. He falls in love with the famous French singer Alice Prin, often called Kiki de Montparnasse, who later became his favorite photographic model. Together with Jean Arp, Max Ernst, André Masson, Joan Miró and Pablo Picasso, he was represented in the first surrealist exhibition at the Pierre gallery in Paris in 1925.

In 1934, the famous surrealist artist Meret Oppenheim, known for her fur-covered cup, posed for Man Ray in what became a well-known series of photos that portray her naked standing near a printing press. Also of the surrealist painter Bridget Bate Tichenor, whose father Ray was a great friend, numerous photographs remain. Together with the surrealist photographer Lee Miller who was her lover and photographic assistant. At the time he systematically used the photographic technique of solarization first.

The outbreak of the Second World War obliges Man Ray, who is of Jewish origin, to return to the United States. In 1940 he arrives in New York but shortly after he moves to Los Angeles. During this period he taught photography and painting in a college, exhibited his photographs in various exhibitions, including at the Julien Levy gallery in New York. After World War II Man Ray returns to Paris, where he will live until the day of his death, in these years he continues to paint and take photographs. In 1975 he exhibited his photographs at the Venice Biennale.

In the last years of his life, Man Ray often returned to the United States, where he lived in Los Angeles for a few years. However he considered Montparnasse to be his home and he always returned there and it was there that he died on November 18, 1976. He was buried in the Montparnasse cemetery. His epitaph recites: "Not caring, but not indifferent."