"I never just do one thing, but two things that are totally unrelated. I put these together to create by contrast, a sort of plastic poem. These sensual and poetic 'residues of experience and adventure' are fixed by light and chemistry for our pleasure." (Man Ray)
Arriving in Paris from New York in 1921, Man Ray, primarily a painter, was immediately welcomed into the avant-garde circle of the Dadaists and Surrealists. Already, in Breton's words, 'an accomplished technician of photography,' Man Ray's experimental use of the medium made him a natural choice as the unofficial photographer of his artistic contemporaries.
While his techical inventiveness led him in many directions in the 1920s and 1930s - from innovative fashion work for Harper's Bazaar, to an astonishing series of unique 'Rayographs' - it is in his personal nudes that Man Ray, the man as well as the artist, most fully realized his creative goal, to create a body of work free of all social constraints, in the pursuit of liberty and pleasure.
Man Ray's Érotique Voilée, 1933, is an important illustration of his stated objective to infuse the real with the imaginary - in this instance - to transform the female nude into an erotic enigma. In the series of photographs made in the Montmartre atelier of artist Louis Marcoussis, Man Ray posed Meret Oppenheim, a frequent collaborator and muse, behind a giant printing wheel. Naked, with her hand and arm splattered with ink, she is a glamorous yet androgynous figure. This version is unquestionably the most successful of the series (which also included a number with Marcoussis himself in the guise of Henri Landru, a notorious, contemporary serial killer of women - see accompanying illustration and lot 106 for examples). Some 70 years after its creation, the image still retains its vibrancy and power to shock. The image appeared subsequently in Minotaure magazine, No. 5 (May 1934).
Vintage prints of Érotique Voilée are rare enough, but the photograph also possesses extraordinary provenance. It was given by Man Ray to Louis Marcoussis after the 'shoot' and has subsequently remained in the family collection.