• Photographs: The Evening Sale auction at Christies

    Sale 12203

    Photographs: The Evening Sale

    4 October 2016, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 4

    Man Ray (1890–1976)

    Rayograph, 1922


    Man Ray (1890–1976)
    Rayograph, 1922
    gelatin silver print, mounted on original board
    signed and dated in pencil (mount, recto)
    image/sheet: 9 3/8 x 7 in. (23.9 x 17.8 cm.)
    mount: 11 3/4 x 9 in. (29.9 x 22.9 cm.)

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    'Rayographs' are Man Ray’s personalized name for photograms, photographic prints made using the simplest, and oldest, of photographic techniques. They are made in a darkroom without a camera by placing objects on a sheet of photo-sensitized paper. When exposed to light, shadows are cast both around and through the arrangement of objects on the paper; depending on the relative opacity and transparency of the objects chosen and the way light refracts through them, distortions, shadows and a range of tonalities are made visible. After a brief exposure, or several brief exposures, the sheet of paper is processed in photographic chemistry, revealing the latent image. As there is no negative or file to work from, this technique yields unique photographic prints; they are one-of-a-kind rarities.

    The present Rayograph was made in 1922, the year that Man Ray first began working with the photogram technique. It is both straightforward and mysterious, with at least six separate components and the cast shadow of a crystal object hovering in the top half of the image. This Rayograph is distinguished by a rich publication history. It was reproduced in the March 1923 issue of the groundbreaking avant-garde magazine Broom, published in New York. With a cover design by Man Ray, this issue contained reproductions of four photograms by László Moholy-Nagy and four by Man Ray. In 1925, Moholy-Nagy reproduced this Rayograph in his landmark book Malerie, Fotografie, Film, in the section titled, ‘Camera-less photographs: New use of the material transforms the everyday object into something mysterious.’

    The revolutionary impact of Man Ray’s Rayographs on photography and contemporary art cannot be overstated, and their power was recognized from the outset. Writing an ‘open letter’ to Man Ray in the Spring 1922 revue Les Feuilles Libres, Jean Cocteau asserted that, 'Your pictures are the objects themselves, not photographed by a lens, but directly inserted by your poet’s hand between the light and the sensitive paper.'


    Dr. Franz R. and Kathryn M. Stenzel, Portland, Oregon;
    ?gifted from the above to the present owner, 2006.

    Pre-Lot Text



    Broom, March 1923, vol. 4, n. 4, p. 47.
    Moholy-Nagy, Malerei, Fotografie, Film, Albert Langen Verlag, Munich, 1925, p. 76.
    L’intransigneant, April 1, 1930.?
    Giulio Carlo Argan, Man Ray, Rayograph, Galleria Martano, Torino, 1970, no. 7.
    Arturo Schwarz, Man Ray: The Rigour of Imagination, Thames and Hudson, London, 1977, p. 247.
    Exhibition catalogue, Photographien-Filme-Frühe Objekt, Zurich, 1988, p. 28, no. 2.
    Emmanuelle de l'Ecotais, Man Ray Rayographies, Léo Scheer, Paris, 2002, p. 65, no. 49.