Man Ray

In the early decades of the 20th century, photography was still seen as a process able to reproduce unambiguous truth with machine-like objectivity. The American photographer, Dadaist, Surrealist and luminary of the Parisian avant-garde, Man Ray, challenged this assumption.

Rather than treating it as a passive recording process, Ray used photography as a means of fathoming human desire, dreams and the unconscious. By doing so, he created some of the most beautiful and enigmatic images of the first half of the 20th century and forever changed the way images are made and looked at.

Born Emmanuel Radnitzky in Philadelphia, Man Ray was the eldest child of Russian-Jewish immigrants who changed their surname to ‘Ray’. After the family moved to Brooklyn, Ray studied drawing under the celebrated realist artist, George Bellows, in New York. His visits to Alfred Stieglitz’s gallery, 291, and the seminal Post-Impressionist and Cubist Armory Show of 1913, greatly influenced him, and by 1916 he was making masterful Cubist works of his own.

Throughout his career, Ray would continue to paint and experiment in filmmaking and sculpture. But it was his meeting with French Dadaist Marcel Duchamp in 1915, and his subsequent work in photography beginning in the early 1920s, that would have the greatest impact on the history of art.

Ray followed Duchamp to Paris in 1921 to be at the centre of the European avant-garde. There he began experimenting with the processes of solarisation and a version of the photogram he called the ‘rayograph’. He would live in Paris for the next 20 years in a circle including Gertrude Stein, Jean Cocteau, Salvador Dalí, Max Ernst, André Breton and Lee Miller, producing iconic Surrealist images such as Noire et Blanche (1926) and Les Larmes (Tears) (1932). Le Violin d’Ingres (1924), a playful portrait of his lover and muse Kiki de Montparnasse, became the most expensive photograph ever sold at auction when it hammered for $12,412,500 at Christie’s New York in 2022.

The portraits Ray took of his friends in the Parisian avant-garde and his celebrated fashion shoots for the likes of Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue saw many of his techniques enter the common vernacular of photography. Ray left Paris at the beginning of the World War II and returned only in 1951, where he lived until his death in 1976.


MAN RAY (1890-1976)

Maisons ennemies

MAN RAY (1890-1976)

Portrait (Patti Cadby Birch)

MAN RAY (1890–1976)

Le Violon d'Ingres, 1924

MAN RAY (1890–1976)

Noire et Blanche

Man Ray (1890-1976)

Catherine Barometer

MAN RAY (1890-1976)

Noire et Blanche, 1926

MAN RAY (1890-1976)

Portrait of a Tearful Woman

MAN RAY (1890-1976)

Portrait de Kiki

MAN RAY (1890-1976)

ALINE ET VALCOUR

MAN RAY (1890-1976)

Untitled Rayograph, 1922

Man Ray (1890-1976)

Aline et Valcour

MAN RAY (1890-1976)

Primat de la matière sur la pensée, 1929

Man Ray (1890-1976)

Hermaphrodite

MAN RAY (1890-1976)

Untitled (Solarized Nude, Paris), 1929

MAN RAY (1890–1976)

Le Violon d'Ingres, 1924

MAN RAY (1890-1976)

Songe de la clef

Man Ray (1890-1976)

The Reaper

MAN RAY (1890-1976)

Untitled, Cannes, 1924

MAN RAY (1890-1976)

Erotique voilée, 1933

MAN RAY (1890–1976)

Lee Miller, c. 1930

Man Ray (1890-1976)

Le violon d'Ingres, 1924

MAN RAY (1890-1976)

Belle Haleine, Eau de Voilette, 1920

MAN RAY (1890–1976)

Rayograph, 192 0s

MAN RAY (1890–1976)

La Prière, 1930

MAN RAY (1890-1976)

Le Message Automatique, 1933

Man Ray (1890-1976)

Five Grapefruits

Man Ray (1890-1976)

Optical Hopes and Illusions

MAN RAY (1890-1976)

Monte Carlo Banknote (Marcel Duchamp), 1921

Man Ray (1890-1976)

Rayograph ( Les Champs Délicieux no. 11 ), 1921-22

MAN RAY (1890-1976)

Les doigts d'amour de Main Ray, la ligne, la couleur, la forme, l'espace, l'air, 1951

MAN RAY (1890 - 1976)

Lee Miller, a sequence of three nude studies, c. 1930

MAN RAY (1890-1976)

Untitled, 1921-1922

MAN RAY (1890-1976)

Decollage III

MAN RAY (1890-1976)

Les Trois pêchés

MAN RAY (1890-1976)

Primat de la matière sur la pensée, 1929

MAN RAY (1890-1976)

Femme aux yeux baissés

MAN RAY (1890-1976)

Swedish Landscape, 1925

MAN RAY (1890-1976)

Nature morte avec un jeu d'échecs, moulage en plâtre et A l'Heure de l'Observatoire - Les Amoureux, vers 1935-1936

MAN RAY (1890-1976)

À quoi rêvent les jeunes...

MAN RAY (1890-1976)

Champs délicieux, Paris, 1922

MAN RAY (1890-1976)

La Poire d'Erik Satie

MAN RAY (1890–1976)

dadaphoto, 1920

Man Ray (1890-1976)

Burlesque ( Les mains libres )

MAN RAY (1890-1976)

Nude with Shadow (solarized), 1927

MAN RAY (1890-1976)

Modigliani, 1929

MAN RAY (1890–1976)

Solarized Portrait of Mary Gill, 1931