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    Sale 7543

    The Art of the Surreal (immediately following the Impressionist and Modern Art, Evening Sale)

    4 February 2008, London, King Street

  • Lot 165

    Man Ray (1890-1976)

    The Wall

    Price Realised  

    Man Ray (1890-1976)
    The Wall
    signed and dated 'Man Ray 1938' (lower right)
    oil on canvas
    19¾ x 25½ in. (50.2 x 64.8 cm.)
    Painted in 1938

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    This work will be included in the catalogue of the paintings of Man Ray being prepared by Andrew Strauss and Timothy Baum.

    The Wall is one of Man Ray's most intriguing an enigmatic Surrealist paintings. It depicts the shadow of a man chasing a woman, their stark silhouettes cast against the surface of a brick or stone wall. A large, attenuated hand emerges from behind the wall, holding a small ball between its thumb and forefinger, while a cloud hovering overhead echoes the angular shapes within the image. The painting is completed with the scaffolding of a metal tower in the background at the far left. Simple though these elements may appear, they impart a curiously foreboding air. This is caused by a variety of elements; the tower takes on the appearance of a sentry lookout, a structure that might be associated with a prison, a reading reinforced by the imposing stone wall; the cloud is darkened on its underside, implying that a storm is fast approaching; and the male figure stretches its hand out in an attempt to capture the escaping female, just as a predator might leap forward in an effort to seize its prey.

    All of these elements take on an added significance when one considers that this painting was executed in Paris in 1938, not only during the height of Surrealist activities but also on the eve of a devastating conflict that all of Europe had come to believe was inevitable. Of course, there is the possibility that the symbolism of this painting was intended to be far more personal, meant to represent Man Ray's seemingly endless pursuit of the ideal female partner in life. If this interpretation is accepted, the threatening atmosphere that exists in this painting might imply that, after having parted from Lee Miller some eight years earlier, at the age of 48, Man Ray harboured a somewhat pessimistic opinion of his potential to find the woman of his dreams.

    We are grateful to Francis M. Naumann for his assistance in cataloguing the present work.

    Special Notice

    VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 15% on the buyer's premium


    Elaine Siegler Taswell, Rochester, Minnesota, a gift from her uncle, the artist.
    The estate of Elaine Siegler Taswell, Chicago; sale, Christie's, London, 2 February 2004, lot 85b.
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.

    Pre-Lot Text



    A. Schwarz, Man Ray, The Rigour of Imagination, London, 1977, pp. 60, 68-69, 70 and 76 (illustrated fig. 69, p. 88).
    M. Foresta (ed.), Perpetual Motif, The Art of Man Ray, New York, 1988 (illustrated p. 282).
    T. Ishihara (ed.), Man Ray Equations: catalogue raisonné, Kyoto, 1999, no. 178 (illustrated, p. 58).


    Princeton, Princeton University Art Gallery, Man Ray, March - April 1963, no. 17.
    Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Lytton Gallery, Man Ray, 1966, no. 39 (illustrated p. 88).
    New York, The New York Cultural Centre in association with Fairleigh Dickinson University, Man Ray: Inventor/Painter/Poet, December 1974 - March 1975, no. 34.
    Washington, D.C., The National Museum of American Art, Man Ray, December 1988 - February 1989 (dated '1940'); this exhibition later travelled to Los Angeles, The Museum of Contemporary Art, March - May 1989; Houston, The Menil Collection, June - September 1989 and Philadelphia, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, October 1989 - January 1990.
    Haggerty Museum of Art, Marquette University, Man Ray in America, October - December 1989.
    New York, André Emmerich Gallery, Man Ray: An American Surrealist Vision, November - December 1997 (illustrated); this exhibition later travelled to Tokyo, Itochu Gallery, February - April 1998.