Noire et Blanche, Paris (Positive and Negative)

Noire et Blanche, Paris (Positive and Negative)
2 gelatin silver prints. 1926. Positive image signed and date in ink on the recto; positive image with Epreuve originale Atelier Man Ray stamp and each with Rue Campagne Premire stamp on the verso.
Each approximately 8 x 10in. (21.6 x 27.3cm.) Framed. (2)
From the artist;
to Lucien Treillard;
with Alain Paviot, Paris and Galerie Rudolf Kicken, Cologne.
See: Abbeville Press, L'Amour Fou: Photography and Surrealism, fig. 123-124; Schirmer/Mosel, Man Ray Photograph, fig. 109-110, p. 106.
See also for the positive image only: Vogue (Paris), May, 1926 ("Les Photographies de Man Ray", p. 154); Varits, 15 July 1928; Man Ray in Fashion, p. 62; also Man Ray Photographs, p. 106, pl. 109 and Perpetual Motif, p. 192, pl. 164.

Positive image:
Pantheon der Photographie 20 Jahrhunderts, Bonn, 19 June - 20 September 1992;
Crosscurrents: Americans in Paris 1900-1940, New York, Hirschl and Adler Galleries, 2 February - 13 March 1993;
Man Ray, New York, Emmerich Gallery, November 1997- January 1998.

Lot Essay

You have, my dear Kiki, such beautiful eyes, tha the world as seen through them must be very pretty. What do you see?

(Robert Desnos, exhibition catalogue of Kiki's paintings at Au Sacre du Printemps, Paris, 25 March - 9 April, 1927)

When thinking, or dreaming, of Montparnasse in the 1920s, when the Surrealists seemed to rule, the face and form that inevitably floats into mind is that of Kiki of Montparnasse. Kiki was a unique vestige of the Parisian scene, a painter, a performer and Man Ray's muse and lover, and she embodied the headiness of Paris' off-beat culture in photographs, in paintings and in films.

She was born Alice Prin, October 2, 1901, the illegitimate child of Marie Prin, a typesetter and Maxime Legros, a coal maker, far removed from Paris in Chtillon-sur-Seine, Burgundy. Following her mother to Paris at twelve, she was thrown out into the streets at age sixteen, having offended the tired, older Prin for accepting work as an artist's model, and, presumably, for the chore of undressing for the part.

When Man Ray arrived in Paris some four or five years later in 1921 from America, at Marcel Duchamp's invitation and insistence (although he needed no prodding, for certain), he met Kiki soon thereafter. It would be Man Ray's good fortune that, through chance occurance, Duchamp and Kiki lived in the same building, on the same floor. Man Ray, ten years the model's senior, was stricken immediately. For the next several years Kiki appeared in Man Ray's work, his photographs, his paintings and his films, in poses that succumbed to Surrealist concepts regularly. The two images that most clearly define this moment are Le Violon d'Ingres, 1924 and Noire et Blanche, 1926.

Noire et Blanche, Paris was first published in Paris Vogue in May, 1926 ("Les Photographies de Man Ray", p. 154).

Noire et Blanche is replete with Surrealist references and although best known by its positive version alone, the surprising pairing of the positive/negative prints more fully exploits the lyricism of the composition. A mask, a beautiful woman with her eyes closed, a hard dark face and a sensuous, velvet lighter one seem to take on even greater dimensions when the tones are reversed and the images inverted and joined. The conscious references to photography itself as the image shifts from Noire et Blanche to Blanche et Noire adds complexity to a mystery of meanings.

Two prints of the positive image have been sold recently at Christie's. Both, like the set offered here, are of remarkable provenance. The first was sold on 20 April 1994 (Lot 31). That print, formerly in the collection of Jacques Doucet, the Parisian couturier was on the same paper as the prints offered here. The second was Kiki's personal print, inscribed by her to the film actress Asta Nielsen. That version, also a positive print and a slightly earlier print on a semi-gloss paper, was sold October 5, 1995, Lot 19.

Matching pairs of vintage prints of the positive and negative images are considered extremely rare. Man Ray expert, Timothy Baum, has confirmed that, along with the Jacques Doucet print of Noire et Blanche, there are several examples of Rayographs dated 1926-27 executed on the same paper with its characteristic textured and matte surface.


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