Last Updated July 13, 2018

Man Ray

American (Born 1890 - Died 1976 ) PREMIUM LISTING Featured
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Man Ray was an American visual artist and photographer 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.

Man Ray was born as Emmanuel Radnitzky in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. in 1890. He was the eldest child of Russian Jewish immigrants. 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 anti-Semitism 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 combined single name.

In 1909, following education at Brooklyn's Boys' High School, Ray was offered a scholarship to study architecture but chose to pursue a career as an artist initially training to become a painter. While living in New York City, Man Ray was visually influenced by the 1913 Armory Show and galleries of European contemporary works. His early paintings display facets of cubism. He befriended Marcel Duchamp, who was interested in showing movement in static paintings, his works began to depict movement of the figures.

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. He produced his first significant photographs in 1918.

In 1921, Man Ray went to live and work in Paris, France. For the next 20 years in Montparnasse made his living almost entirely from commercial fashion photography for the likes of Vanity Fair, French Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, as well as some of Paris’s most famous designers. The resulting photographs have had a lasting impact on fashion photography as a medium thanks to Man Ray’s refusal to stray from his artistic ambitions, regardless of the form they took. Significant members of the art world, such as James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, Jean Cocteau, Bridget Bate Tichenor, and Antonin Artaud, also posed for his camera.

In 1929 Man Ray struck up a creative partnership and relationship with photographer and model, Lee Miller. She is credited with taking over some of Ray's fashion photography assignments so that he could concentrate on his painting.

Some of Ray's most famous highly creative, surrealist-influenced images resulted from experiments with photograms (which he called ‘rayographs’) and solarisation. He discovered his famous “rayograph” technique, when he accidentally switched on the light in his Paris darkroom, exposing the photo paper mid-development and creating the dramatic contrast of light and dark that would become so integral to many of his future works.

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. He returned to Paris in 1951.

In 1974, 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.

Man Ray died in Paris in November 1976 from a lung infection.

"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."


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