Overview

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Details
MAN RAY (1890-1976)
Untitled Rayograph, 1922
unique gelatin silver photogram
signed in pencil (on the mount); annotation 'Original Man Ray 23' in ink (on the reverse of the mount)
image/sheet: 9¼ x 7in. (23.5 x 17.8cm.)
mount: 14 x 10 5/8in. (35.5 x 27cm.)
Provenance
Private Collection, New York;
with Timothy Baum, New York
Literature
Cocteau, 'Photographie: Lettre ouverte à Man Ray, photographe américain', Les Feuilles Libres, no. 26, April-May 1922, pp. 134-135, and Rayograph not paginated; Modernist Masterworks to 1925 from 'the deLIGHTed eye', A Private Collection, International Center of Photography, New York, 1985, p. 12; de l'Ecotais, Man Ray: Rayographies, Éditions Léo Scheer, 2002, cat. no. 11, pp. 39, 202
Exhibited
Modernist Masterworks to 1925 from 'the deLIGHTed eye', A Private Collection, International Center of Photography, New York, May 15-June 16, 1985

Condition Report

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Lot Essay

In the winter of 1921-1922, Man Ray stumbled on the creative potential of the photogram. He experimented enthusiastically with the technique, dubbing his creations 'Rayographs'. Aware that he was on to something exciting, Man Ray wrote to a patron, 'In my new work I feel I have reached the climax of things I have been searching the last ten years -- I have never worked as I did this winter, I have freed myself from the sticky medium of paint, and am working directly with light itself. I have found a way of recording it. The subjects were never so near to life itself as in my new work, and never so completely translated to the medium.'

In what may well be the first publication of a Rayograph, the present lot was reproduced in the Spring of 1922 in the revue Les Feuilles Libres accompanied by a text by Jean Cocteau, an 'open letter' to Man Ray in which he wrote, 'Your pictures are the objects themselves, not photographed by a lens, but directly inserted by your poet's hand between the light and the sensitive paper.'

In later years when Man Ray began to make copies of his Rayographs, his practice was to mark the original as he did here on the reverse of the mount, 'Original 23'. The number indicates the year he mistakenly believed he had created it.

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