Tomorrow, an important new exhibition opens devoted to one of the most innovative and influential artists of his generation: over 150 vintage prints from Man Ray’s career taken between 1916 and 1968 have been gathered together at the National Portrait Gallery in London.
Drawn from private collections and major museums including the Pompidou Centre, the J. Paul Getty Museum and New York’s The Museum of Modern Art and Metropolitan Museum of Art, and special loans from the Man Ray Trust Archive, the majority of the works have not previously been exhibited in the United Kingdom.
Portraits of Man Ray’s celebrated contemporaries are shown alongside his personal and often intimate portraits of friends, lovers and his social circle. His versatility and experimentation as an artist is illustrated throughout his photography although this was never his chosen principal artistic medium. An impressive list of photographic portraits of cultural figures and friends including Marcel Duchamp, Berenice Abbott, Andre Breton, Jean Cocteau, Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, James Joyce, Erik Satie, Henri Matisse, Barbette, Igor Stravinsky, YvesTanguy, Salvador Dali, Le Corbusier, Virginia Woolf, Aldous Huxley, Coco Chanel and Wallis Simpson, can be seen.
Man Ray was born in Philadelphia in 1890 and spent his early life in New York, turning down a scholarship to study architecture in order to devote himself to painting. He initially taught himself photography in order to reproduce his works of art but in 1920 he began to work as a portrait photographer to fund his artwork.
In 1915, whilst at Ridgefield artist colony in New Jersey, he met the French artist Marcel Duchamp and together they tried to establish New York Dada. His friendship with Duchamp led to Man Ray’s move to Paris in 1921, where, as a contributor to the Dada and Surrealist movements, he was perfectly placed to make defining images of his contemporaries from the avant-garde. In this period he was instrumental in developing and producing a type of photogram which he called ‘Rayographs’, and is credited in rediscovering and developing, alongside his lover and collaborator Lee Miller, the process of solarisation. This can be seen in the exhibition in the portraits of Elsa Schiaparelli, Irene Zurkinden, Lee Miller, Suzy Solidor and his own Self-Portrait with Camera.
Following the outbreak of World War II, Man Ray left France for the USA and took up residence in Hollywood. While officially devoting himself once more to painting, new research has revealed that Man Ray made a number of significant photographic portraits during his Hollywood years, and several are shown for the first time in this exhibition. Film star subjects included Ruth Ford, Paulette Goddard, Ava Gardner, Tilly Losch and Dolores del Rio. Returning to Paris in 1951 he again made the city his home until his death in 1976. His portraits from the 1950s include experiments with colour photography, such as his portraits of Juliette Greco and Yves Montand, and the exhibition closes with his portrait of film star Catherine Deneuve from 1968.
The exhibition opens tomorrow, 7 February, and runs until 27 May 2013.
Photo: Man Ray self-portrait, 1932
Gift Aid admission £14. Concessions £13 / £12
Standard price admission £12.70. Concessions £11.80/£10.90
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.