Man Ray (Surrealist artist)



2015-06-26 10:38:26

Man Ray was an artist and photographer who played a large role in both the Surrealist and Dada artistic movements.

Biography of artist

Man Ray was born in August 27th, 1890 and died November 18th, 1976. Although American he lived for most of his life in France and his birth name was Emmanuel Radnitzky. Ray contributed to the movements of Dada and Surrealism; most famously through his avant-garde photography.

Man Ray's earlier work was drawings and paintings, often influenced by cubism. The first public display of his work was in 1915 and in 1916 he produced an assemblage named 'Self-Portrait' which famously incorporated an inoperative doorbell.

In 1918 Ray began to specialise in producing his images mechanically and photographically. He was heavily influenced by Dadaism and produced some significant work during this time including the spray-gun production 'Rope Dancer'. In 1920 he co-produced (with Marcel Duchamp) Rotary Glass Plates which is credited as being one of the first pieces of kinetic art.

Ray's art career encompassed many techniques and media forms. His photos were amongst those displayed in the first Surrealist exhibition at Gallerie Pierre in Paris, 1925. He directed many avant-garde films in the 1920s and in 1963 he published his autobiography – named 'Self-Portrait' after his earlier work.

Influence on other artists

Man Ray's influence can be seen in the way photographic development practises have changed and developed throughout the 20th century. Artists who credit him amongst their influences include Berenice Abbott, Bill Brandt, Jacques-Andre Boiffard, Curtis Moffat and Lee Miller.

Popular culture today also shows his influence – the popular film and stage show 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show' based its logo on Man Ray's 'Lips' (Heure de l'Observatoire'). There is a character of the same name in the long-running cartoon SpongeBob Squarepants and pop band REM also list him as one of their inspirations using the line: 'It's a Man Ray kind of sky' in their song 'Feeling Gravity's Pull'.

Most famous works

One of Man ray's most well-known photos is the 1924 image 'Le Violon d'Ingres' which depicts French model, Kiki de Montparnasse; Ray applied brush strokes to the photographic image of the model's bare back, transforming her into a violin. It is a controversial image and has been criticised over the years for objectifying women.

He is also highly known for his series of photograms which he named 'rayographs'. He was thought to be one of the first artists employing this technique which involved varying exposure times and the moving of object once the image was being exposed.

Most expensive works

Man Ray's auction record was $607,500. This was for two prints, auctioned at Christie's in New York, Oct. 2008 of his Noire en Blanche (1926). This, like his Violin d'Ingres, was of Kiki de Montparnasse.

The highest amount he achieved for a single piece of work was a presentation print of 'Glass Tears' (1930-1933) which was privately sold in 1999 to a collector in San Francisco, John A. Pritzker for a record $1.3 million.

Other notable auction sales

  • 2005 – Christies, Paris – An untitled 1923 rayograph, given as a gift to Max Ernst, sold for $406,542
  • 2008 – Sotheby's, New York – a signed print of a 1930 portrait of Jennifer Goddard sells for $374,500
  • 2011 - Sotheby's, New York. An untitled Man Ray photomontage sells for $410,500. It depicts a female nude and is signed by the artist.
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