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MAN RAY (1890-1976)
THE PROPERTY OF A PRIVATE COLLECTOR
MAN RAY (1890-1976)

ALINE ET VALCOUR

Details
MAN RAY (1890-1976)
ALINE ET VALCOUR
SIGNED AND DATED 'MAN RAY 1950' (LOWER LEFT); SIGNED, DATED AND TITLED '"ALINE ET VALCOUR" 1950 MAN RAY' (ON THE STRETCHER)
OIL ON CANVAS
29 7/8 X 38 IN. (76 X 96.5 CM.)
PAINTED IN 1950
Provenance
MAN RAY, PARIS, UNTIL AT LEAST 1971.
JULIET MAN RAY, BY WHOM ACQUIRED DIRECTLY FROM THE ARTIST.
GALERIE 1900-2000, PARIS.
PRIVATE COLLECTION, PARIS, BY WHOM ACQUIRED FROM THE ABOVE; SALE, SOTHEBY'S, LONDON, 5 FEBRUARY 2008, LOT 61 ($1,256,911).
ACQUIRED AT THE ABOVE SALE BY THE PRESENT OWNER.
Literature
P. WESCHER, 'MAN RAY AS PAINTER', IN MAGAZINE OF ART, NEW YORK, JANUARY 1953, P. 36 (ILLUSTRATED).
JANUS, ED., MAN RAY, MILAN, 1973, NO. 88 (ILLUSTRATED).
S. ALEXANDRIAN, MAN RAY, PARIS, 1973, PP. 56 & 57 (DETAIL ILLUSTRATED).
R. PENROSE, MAN RAY, LONDON, 1975, NO. 114, P. 171 (ILLUSTRATED).
EXH. CAT., MAN RAY, L'OCCHIO E IL SUO DOPPIO. DIPINTI, COLLAGES, DISEGNI, INVENZIONI FOTOGRAFICHE, OGETTI D'AFFEZIONE, LIBRI, CINEMA, PALAZZO DELLE ESPOSIZIONE, ROME, 1975, FIG. 68 (ILLUSTRATED).
A. SCHWARZ, MAN RAY. THE RIGOUR OF IMAGINATION, LONDON, 1977, NO. 204, P. 116 (ILLUSTRATED).
EXH. CAT., PERPETUAL MOTIF: THE ART OF MAN RAY, NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART, WASHINGTON D.C.; THE MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART, LOS ANGELES; THE MENIL COLLECTION, HOUSTON; AND THE PHILADELPHIA MUSEUM OF ART, 1988, FIG. 268, P. 326 (ILLUSTRATED).
Exhibited
PARIS, GALERIE FURSTENBERG, EXPOSITION DE PEINTURES DE MAN RAY, JUNE 1954, NO. 5.
TOURS, MUSéE DES BEAUX-ARTS, EXPOSITION DE TROIS PEINTRES AMéRICANS, DEUX TOURANGEUX, UN PARISIEN, MAX ERNST, MAN RAY, DOROTHEA TANNING, NOVEMBER - DECEMBER 1956, NO. 23.
PARIS, GALERIE RIVE DROITE, MAN RAY, OCTOBER 1959, NO. 17.
LOS ANGELES, COUNTY MUSEUM OF ART, MAN RAY, 1966, NO. 92.
LONDON, HANOVER GALLERY, MAN RAY, 1969, NO. 7.
ROTTERDAM, MUSEUM BOIJMANS VAN BEUNINGEN, MAN RAY, SEPTEMBER - NOVEMBER 1971, NO. 43; THIS EXHIBITION LATER TRAVELLED TO PARIS, MUSéE NATIONAL D'ART MODERNE, JANUARY - FEBRUARY 1972; AND HUMLEBAEK, LOUISIANA MUSEUM, MARCH - APRIL 1972, NO. 41.

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Adrienne Dumas
Adrienne Dumas

Lot Essay

MAN RAY CREATED ALINE ET VALCOUR IN 1950, AT A CRUCIAL MOMENT WHEN HE WAS RE-ENGAGING WITH PAINTING. HAVING FLED TO HOLLYWOOD FROM PARIS DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR, MAN RAY, WHO HAD BECOME BY THE 1920S THE FOREMOST SURREALIST PHOTOGRAPHER, ONCE MORE DECIDED TO ESTABLISH HIMSELF AS A PAINTER; RE-EVALUATING HIS CAREER BY RECLAIMING AND RE-INTERPRETING IMAGERY FROM HIS EARLIER BODY OF WORK, ALINE ET VALCOUR IS THE PRODUCT OF THIS PROJECT AND ONE OF THE ARTIST'S MAJOR SURREALIST PAINTINGS. IN THIS CANVAS, MAN RAY ARRESTINGLY COMBINES MOTIFS APPROPRIATED FROM HIS PAST PHOTOGRAPHS AND ASSEMBLED OBJECTS TO CREATE AN ENIGMATIC, COMPOSITE WORK WHICH EXPLORES THE THEMES OF POWER, MANIPULATION, DEHUMANISATION AND VIOLENCE. THE PAINTING IS ALSO AN ODE TO THE EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY AUTHOR, THE MARQUIS DE SADE, WHOSE PRESCIENT WRITING ON POLITICAL SYSTEMS AND MORALITY IN HIS NOVEL OF THE SAME NAME, ALINE ET VALCOUR, PROFOUNDLY RESONATED WITH MAN RAY IN THE WAKE OF THE SECOND WORLD WAR.

DE SADE COMPOSED ALINE ET VALCOUR BETWEEN 1785 AND 1788 WHEN HE WAS IMPRISONED IN THE BASTILLE. AN ELABORATE EPISTOLARY NOVEL INVOLVING NUMEROUS SUBPLOTS AND AN ENORMOUS CAST OF CHARACTERS, THIS MANICHEAN WORK IS AMONGST DE SADE'S LEAST SALACIOUS AND MARKED HIS ATTEMPT TO ESTABLISH HIMSELF AS A SERIOUS WRITER AND POLITICAL THINKER. MAN RAY WAS DEEPLY FASCINATED BY DE SADE'S ALINE ET VALCOUR, DESCRIBING IT AS, 'A BEAUTIFUL BOOK, ONE OF HIS MOST IMPORTANT NOVELS, IN WHICH SADE SOLVED EVERY PROBLEM BY MERELY POINTING OUT THE ABSURDITY OF UNIVERSAL STANDARDS. YOU MAY REMEMBER THE STORY, IT IS THAT OF A COUPLE THAT TRAVELS AROUND AND FINDS OUT THAT EACH COUNTRY HAS COMPLETELY DIFFERENT MORAL AND POLITICAL STANDARDS' (MAN RAY, QUOTED IN A. SCHWARTZ, MAN RAY. THE RIGOUR OF IMAGINATION, LONDON, 1977, P. 121).

ALTHOUGH THE PAINTING BEARS THE TITLE OF THE NOVEL, IT IS NOT AN ILLUSTRATION OF THE BOOK'S NARRATIVE, BUT CAN BE SAID TO ADDRESS SOME OF ITS CENTRAL THEMES. DE SADE CREATES TWO COMPARATIVE SOCIO-POLITICAL SYSTEMS: BATUA AND TAMOé. THE DYSTOPIAN PORTUGUESE-AFRICAN KINGDOM OF BATUA, A SATIRISATION OF ABSOLUTE MONARCHY, IS RULED BY FEAR, OPPRESSION, VIOLENCE AND THE SUBJUGATION OF WOMEN. THIS IS CONTRASTED WITH THE UTOPIAN BUT, NONETHELESS, CONFORMIST TAMOé, GOVERNED BY A BENEVOLENT DESPOT AND UNDERPINNED BY A STRICTLY ENFORCED EQUALITY. THESE IMAGINED LANDS ARE ULTIMATELY RULED BY KNOWLEDGE OF THE MECHANISM OF THE HUMAN PSYCHE, MANIPULATED IN BOTH CASES AS A MEANS OF ASSERTING POWER AND MAINTAINING CONTROL. IT IS ALSO THE TRAGIC STORY OF TWO YOUNG LOVERS, WHERE VIRTUE AND INNOCENCE ARE REPRESENTED BY THE EPONYMOUS ALINE. THE LOVERS ARE ULTIMATELY PUNISHED WHEN THE HEROINE CHOOSES TO END HER LIFE RATHER THAN SPENDING IT WITH THE OLDER MAN HER DEPRAVED FATHER INTENDS HER TO MARRY.

IT WAS DE SADE'S WILLINGNESS TO SHOW THE TRUE CHARACTER OF HUMANKIND, 'WITH ALL ITS CAPACITIES FOR HORROR, CRIME AND INDIFFERENCE', THAT PARTICULARLY APPEALED TO MAN RAY (MAN RAY, QUOTED IN K. HOVING POWELL, '"LE VIOLON D'INGRES": MAN RAY'S VARIATIONS ON INGRES, DEFORMATION, DESIRE AND DE SADE', ART HISTORY, VOL. 23, NO. 5, DECEMBER 2000, P. 796). IT IS IN PART THIS INDIFFERENCE AND DE-SENSITIVITY TO CRIME AND SUFFERING THAT IS ILLUSTRATED IN MAN RAY'S ALINE ET VALCOUR, AS THE RECUMBENT MANNEQUIN TURNS AWAY APATHETICALLY FROM THE DISTURBING SPECTACLE OF A SEVERED AND BLINDFOLDED HEAD. AS ARTURO SCHWARTZ HAS POSITED, THIS CONJUNCTION OF IMAGERY MAY ALSO POINT TO THE NOTION OF THE RELATIVITY OF MORAL STANDARDS WHICH HAD SO INTERESTED MAN RAY UPON READING THE NOVEL (A. SCHWARTZ, OP. CIT., 1977, P. 121).

THE IMAGE OF AN ANONYMOUS JOINTED WOODEN MANNEQUIN RECLINING BETWEEN A SPHERE AND A CONE, SO EVOCATIVE OF THE MYSTERIOUS ATMOSPHERE OF GIORGIO DE CHIRICO'S PAINTINGS, FIRST APPEARS IN A MAN RAY PHOTOGRAPH OF 1926 PUBLISHED IN LA RéVOLUTION SURRéALISTE (15 JUNE 1946, NO. 7). ALONG WITH THE ACCOMPANYING GEOMETRIC SHAPES WHICH MAN RAY HAD PREVIOUSLY CREATED AS CHESS PIECES, THE UNCANNY FIGURE OF THE MANNEQUIN IS A FREQUENT MOTIF IN MAN RAY'S ART AND OTHER METAPHYSICAL AND SURREALIST IMAGERY. THIS WAS USED TO SIGNIFY THE DEHUMANISATION AND MANIPULATION OF MANKIND IN THE MODERN WORLD, CORRESPONDING TO THE THEMES FOUND IN DE SADE'S NOVEL.

THE WOMAN'S HEAD, BLINDFOLDED, RESTING UPON A BOOK AND ENCASED WITHIN A BELL JAR, WAS ADAPTED BY MAN RAY FROM HIS ICONIC PHOTOGRAPH PUBLISHED IN LE SURRéALISME AU SERVICE DE LA RéVOLUTION (1930, NO. 2). ENTITLED HOMMAGE à D.A.F. DE SADE, THIS DISQUIETING IMAGE OF A GUILLOTINED HEAD - ASSUMED TO BE THE MODEL AND MAN RAY'S MUSE, LEE MILLER - EVOKES THE FRENCH REVOLUTION, AN EVENT WHICH DE SADE CLAIMED TO HAVE FORESEEN IN 1788 WHEN WRITING ALINE ET VALCOUR, ALTHOUGH THE BOOK WAS NOT PUBLISHED UNTIL 1795. THIS MOTIF CONJURES UP A SURREALIST SADEAN FANTASY OF POWER, PLEASURE AND PAIN; IT REPRESENTS THE ARCHETYPAL IMAGE OF WOMEN IN DE SADE'S NOVELS AS 'TRAPPED WITHIN THE CONFINES OF A UNILATERAL VICTIM-EXECUTIONER RELATIONSHIP WITH THE MALE, IN WHICH THE HORROR AND HUMILIATION OF THE SITUATION ARE OUTMATCHED ONLY BY ITS CRUSHING BANALITY' (D. WILLIAMS, 'ANOTHER LOOK AT THE SADEAN HEROINE: THE PROSPECTS FOR FEMININITY', IN C. V. MICHAEL (ED.), SADE: HIS ETHICS AND RHETORIC, NEW YORK, 1989, PP. 88). A REVERSAL OF THE STORY OF JUDITH AND HOLOFERNES OR SALOME AND JOHN THE BAPTIST, THIS CAPTURED SACRIFICIAL HEAD, PERHAPS A MOMENTO MORI, IS HERE PRESENTED LIKE AN EXOTIC SPECIMEN - ALTHOUGH THE BLINDFOLD HAS ALSO BEEN SAID TO REMIND US OF THE TRADITIONAL PERSONIFICATION OF JUSTICE WHO IS OFTEN DEPICTED WITH HER EYES COVERED. ONE YEAR AFTER MAN RAY'S HOMMAGE D.A.F. DE SADE, LEE MILLER CREATED HER OWN VERSION OF THE IMAGE BUT INTERESTINGLY REMOVED THE BLINDFOLD.

MAN RAY FAMOUSLY CLAIMED TO LOVE THINGS WHICH ARE INCOMPREHENSIBLE; THE INSCRUTABLE NATURE OF THIS WORK, WITH ITS DEPICTION OF A CLOSED DRAWER AND BOOK, BLINDFOLDED EYES, SEALED BELL JAR AND JUXTAPOSITION OF TWO OF THE ARTIST'S EARLIER IMAGES, SERVES TO CREATE A HIGHLY ENIGMATIC AND DEEPLY FASCINATING PAINTING. DESPITE PREVIOUS ENCOUNTERS IN HIS OEUVRE WITH INDIVIDUAL ELEMENTS OF THE PAINTING AND KNOWLEDGE OF DE SADE'S BOOK, MAN RAY'S HOMAGE TO ALINE ET VALCOUR REMAINS A WORK WHICH CAN BE VIEWED AS TENDING TOWARDS THAT INCOMPREHENSIBILITY HE LOVED IN ITS RE-PORTRAYAL OF THE FAMILIAR AND UNFAMILIAR, SUFFERING AND INDIFFERENCE, MANIPULATION AND OUR OWN LACK OF HUMANITY.


TO BE INCLUDED IN THE CATALOGUE RAISONNé OF PAINTINGS BY MAN RAY BEING PREPARED BY ANDREW STRAUSS AND TIMOTHY BAUM.

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