The machine has become more than a mere adjunct of life… It is really a part of the human life – perhaps its soul. – Francis Picabia, 1915
It is widely known that Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray’s lives were inextricably bound – artistically, personally, and conceptually – for the larger part of their lives, the two in many ways responsible for much of each other’s celebrated greatness. Despite lacking a common language upon meeting in 1915, a sense of brotherhood and shared aesthetic ideologies connected them almost instantly. Their professional collaboration evolved throughout the 1920s and comprised three categories: portraits of Duchamp by Man Ray, portraits of Duchamp’s artwork by Man Ray, and a group of collaborative films. The present lot is particularly noteworthy as it falls into the first two categories.
When the two artists met in 1915, their mutual fascination with glass was one of many instant connections; Man Ray was mastering the camera and Duchamp was experimenting with painting on glass in anticipation of his seminal masterpiece The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass, 1915-1923). Man Ray was also fascinated by reproducing mechanical devices during this period, an intellectual interest the two shared, explored and developed over time. The present lot embodies those interests and was made circa 1923 when Man Ray was solidifying his reputation as a skilled portraitist in Paris. In the image, Duchamp’s portrait is overlaid with an outline of his Glider Containing a Water Mill in Neighboring Metals, one of two glass preparatory studies for the lower portion of his The Large Glass. Man Ray has utilized a defining characteristic of The Large Glass – namely, the transparent nature of the glass which provides a unique 'background' for each viewer. In this portrait, we see Duchamp through the 'glass' on which the Glider was painted.
While the negative date for this image is circa 1923, the mount supporting this print was signed and dated in 1947. During this year, Man Ray traveled from Hollywood to Paris and gathered old prints and negatives he had presumed were lost. Consequently, Man Ray returned to the United States with these prints and an inspired sense of artistic 'rebirth.' This print could have been mounted as a result of the artist's mindset upon returning from Paris.
The print may also have been mounted for Stephan Lion, one of the original owners of the present lot. Lion was born in Munich and fled to New York in the late 1930s, where he became a patron of the arts and amassed an eminent personal collection. Lion corresponded with iconic artists of the period, such as Alexander Calder, Salvadore Dali, Rene Magritte, Georgia O'Keeffe, among others; thus, he may have known Man Ray personally while living in New York. Lion also worked as an art consultant and is documented as having commissioned iconic American abstract works to benefit the New York Cultural Foundation – interestingly, this is where he loaned the present lot for a 1974 retrospective on Man Ray's work. This exhibition, Man Ray: Inventor/Painter/Poet, hung in honor of Man Ray's 85th birthday. The inclusion of this print in that exhibition only contributes to the photograph's fascinating history and significance within the artist's oeuvre.