Man Ray resided for most of his career in Paris, and aptly for this collection, lived for a period in Saint-Germain-en-Laye between 1936 and 1940. He developed his skills among the Dadaists of New York and became an influential figure in the Paris Surrealist movement. Chess was a game much admired by the Dadaists, particularly Marcel Duchamp, who encouraged Man Ray to learn at the Marshall Chess Club, West 4th Street, in 1915. Man Ray described himself in his autobiography as a 'wood pusher' and continued 'my interest was directed towards designing new forms for chess pieces, of not much interest to players but to me a fertile field for invention' (See Man Ray, Self Portrait, 1988, p 186.). In 1920 Man Ray prepared drawings for chess and in 1945 he was given the opportunity to realise these designs, when he was invited to participate in a group exhibition entitled The Imagery of Chess, by Julien Levy. He wanted a set to be 'a symbolic evocation. Taking the Egyptian symbols of kingship as the pyramid, this was used for the king. The Queen, a more feminine form, was suggested by the conical headdress of ladies in medieval times' An edition of six in wood was initially made, followed by an aluminium example in 1947.
This set executed after 1947 during the artist's lifetime.
See Sotheby's, New York, Property from the Estate of Juliet Man Ray, the May Ray Trust and the Family of Juliet Man Ray, 22 March 1995, page 142-143.