Man Ray Emmanuel Radnitzky

Man Ray Emmanuel Radnitzky



Man Ray was an accomplished painter, photographer, sculptor, illustrator, filmmaker, inventor, philosopher, dadaist and surrealist. He was born Emmanuel Rudnitsky in Philadelphia in 1890. His family moved to Brooklyn, New York when he was young. He had known he wanted to be an artist by the time he was seven, and pursued it diligently. In high school he studied drawing and draftsmanship and was offered a grant to study architecture, but did not accept it.


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Man Ray was heavily involved in many aspects of art. In July 1923, Man Ray released one of his films Retour a la raison at the Theatre Michel. A year later he acted in a film entitled Entr’acte, which was directed by Picabia and Rene Clair. He shot his last film in 1937 with Pablo Picasso.

One of his most famous photographs was taken in 1924, Le Violon d’Ingres and is regarded as an excellent example of surrealist art. “Le Violon d’Ingres illustrates an ancient vision of the cellist who holds his anthropomorphic instrument like a woman between his legs. The simple copying of the sound-box apertures on to the back, the framing of the form by the draped fabric below and the turban above, allows the cellist’s dream to become a reality: the surreal transformation is complete” (from Szarkowski’s “Looking at Photographs”).

By 1919, Man Ray had divorced Adon Lacroix. Ten years later he met Lee Miller who became his assistant and eventually his lover. Though best known for his contributions to photographic abstraction, he was also an accomplished portrait and fashion photographer. His commercial work was published in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and Vanity Fair. Among his portrait subjects were famous artists and writers including Picasso, Salvador Dali, and James Joyce. Artistic works were published in the likes of La Revolution surrealiste, The Little Review, Vu and L’Art vivant. Throughout Man Ray’s life he was exhibited around the world. In the chronology of his life there doesn’t seem to be one year that was uneventful for this artist. His work was also published in magazines and books from around the world. Man Ray was also an author of countless articles, including his most famous “Photography is not Art.” The title is a little misleading. Man Ray discusses the reasons why photography is not considered an art. In addition, he writes about the fear painters have that photography will someday be the only art. Similar to Alfred Stieglitz, Man Ray spent most of his life trying to give photography its place in the art world. This article was followed by another entitled, “Photography Can Be Art.” In this one he writes, “some of the most complete and satisfying works of art have been produced when their authors had no idea they were creating a work of art, but were concerned with the expression of an idea.”

In 1946, Man Ray gave a lecture on Surrealism and stated, “the only preparation I made for this was to construct an object that would demonstrate a Surrealist act.” At the conclusion of the lecture the object was auctioned and given to the winner. Also in 1946, after his failed relationship with Lee Miller, he had a double wedding in Beverly Hills and married Juliet Browner with Max Ernst and Dorothea Tanning. He received a gold medal from the Venice Foto Biennale in 1961 and is represented in photography collections at the George Eastman House, the Art Institute of Chicago and the International Museum of Photographer. Also in 1961 Man Ray published autobiography entitled Self Portrait. On his 85th birthday there was an exhibition in New York celebrating his life and work. It was entitled Man Ray, Inventor, Painter, Poet. Held at the Cultural Center, organized by Roland Penrose and Mario Amaya, the exhibition featured 224 works by Man Ray. Also in 1974, Andy Warhol devoted a series of paintings to Man Ray. He died in 1976 in Paris. Man Ray is credited with playing a major role in elevating photography into the realm of abstraction and the expressionists movements of his time, and his work continues to impact artists today.

Man Ray wrote in his essay, “Photography Can Be Art,” “a book was once published of twenty photographs by twenty photographers, of the same model. They were as different as twenty paintings of the same model. There was proof, once and for all, of the flexibility of the camera and its validity as an instrument of expression.



Portrait: Self-Portrait with Camera, 1931
Full Screen: Black and White, 1926
Right: Untitled Rayograph, 1922
Bottom Right: Lee Miller (Solarized), 1929