One of the many challenges in assembling a major exhibition on such a well-known photographer and artist as Man Ray was how best to share new research and balance the introduction of great, but lesser known works, together with great prints of his most iconic works. Similarly his published work in magazines of the 1920s and 1930s such as Vanity Fair, Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar has been examined but I was fascinated to find that no survey to date had looked at in depth as his work published in the great French news weekly VU magazine.

What was most exciting was that copies of Vu were still available for purchase in specialised book shops in Paris or through French ebay. Some of these have found their way into the National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition showcases and the accompanying catalogue.

  Front cover of Vu, Issue No. 144 (17 December 1930) Private Collection

Front cover of Vu, Issue No. 5 (18 April 1928) Private Collection  

VU was founded in 1928 under the editorship of Lucien Vogel and was the precursor to magazines such as Weekly Illustrated, Picture Post and Life. Like a newsreel in print, VU’s picture-crammed pages offered news reportage illustrated with dynamic and sometimes experimental photography and photomontage. VU would run to 638 issues until 5 June 1940, shortly before German troops entered Paris during the Second World War. Altogether, thirty-four of Man Ray’s credited images, including several covers, appeared in VU. The first, in April 1928, portrayed the evocative scene of a woman in a leather flying cap dwarfed by the luminous stone head of an ancient Buddha from Angkor Wat in Cambodia. This was in fact a breaking news story: the subject, a French reporter and adventuress known as Titaÿna, whose real name was Elisabeth Sauvy-Tisseyre, had stolen the Buddha’s head on her travels to Angkor Wat. Other issues saw Man Ray as a photographer of Industrial imagery as well as special Christmas themed photographs of a modern day family and an early publication of Le Baiser including Lee Miller’s lips with an unknown other appearing below a montage with mistletoe.

This photograph would inspire his 1959 pop art work that recently set an auction record of over a million dollars. Other issues of Vu included full page reproductions of his 1936 sitting with the future Duchess of Windsor ( a sensational exclusive showing the true face of Mrs Simpson December 1936) as well as uncredited cover photograph of the cross-dressing Texan aerialist Barbette preparing his make-up in a 1930 issue (see top picture) .

I would love to hear from other enthusiasts who may have come across other published and credited Man Ray photographs that are generally not well-known.

  O gué l'an neuf! Inside page of Vu, Issue No. 355 (2 January 1935) Private Collection

Image credits (top to bottom)

Front cover of Vu, Issue No. 144 (17 December 1930) Private Collection

Front cover of Vu, Issue No. 5 (18 April 1928) Private Collection

O gué l'an neuf! Inside page of Vu, Issue No. 355 (2 January 1935) Private Collection

As part of the exhibition Man Ray Portraits


Got something to say?

Terence Pepper

18 February 2013, 19:22

Thanks to Stephen for mentioning the famous little magazine "Lilliput" that was partially started by Stefan Lorant the photo editor who arrived in England from Hitler's Germany to create first" Weekly Illustrated" and then" Picture Post" (assisted by Tom Hopkinson) the precursors of America's" Life "magazine. Lilliput used some features found in the Berlin based magazine "Das Magazin" which stated in 1925 and also had input in the 1930s from Lorant. One of Man Ray's images from "Das Magazin" (a double exposure of a woman and neon lights) appears in the Man Ray NPG catalogue and another issue reproduces over two pages in gravure a variant of one of his Nancy Cunard with bangles portraits. Possibly what is .most interesting about Lilliput is the article in the October 1941 by Lee Miller, written in very self-effacing style under the heading "I worked with Man Ray" in which she relates, " He not only studies his mistakes to improve his technique, but has sometimes contrived to put his errors to work for him. A laboratory accident, irretrievable disaster in someone else's hands, was the birth of a new and startling technique - solarization! A faulty lighting connection while developing a film accidentally exposed it to strong light in the middle of the process. Ray realized the possibilities of this and soon turned it into a useful and predictable medium." The generous account betrays no trace of Miller's part in the discovery found elsewhere. I havent managed to track down every issue yet of" Das Magazin" from the crucial years in which Man Ray's photographs were included so if other researchers have already done this I'd love to share anf hear more!

Last Edit: 1 March 2013, 11:50 by admin

Stephen Brooke

17 February 2013, 18:27

Fascinating research - the world of magazines like VU and others like the later Lilliput deserve much more attention

Elizabeth Nicholas

16 February 2013, 18:25

I hadn't know about Vu, but am excited to look more carefully into the archives. I'm also thrilled this exhibit will include opportunities to see how Man Ray used his compositional and artistic vision to interpret and communicate the news, which I'm sure will only compliment our appreciation of his more purely aesthetic or cultural images.


15 February 2013, 17:09

Terence Pepper replies: The suggestion that the second pair of lips belong to Tanja Ramm, Lee Miller's close friends with who she met at the Art Student's League in New York and travelled with in Europe in 1929 is a very credible suggestion. In the NPG exhibition in the Lee Miller "room" there is Man Ray's double portrait of them also reproduced in the Gallery catalogue. However further research shows that "Le Baiser" (The Kiss) from 1930 reveals another subject from a less tight crop identified as "Belbourne" in a book by Ingrid Schaffner (The Essential Man Ray.) We will try to do more research on this subject for a further comment.

Last Edit: 1 March 2013, 11:55 by admin


15 February 2013, 10:34

It really looks like Tania Ramm's lips!

Becky E Conekin

14 February 2013, 22:06

Has anyone speculated that it might be Tania Ramm with Lee Miller in the bottom photo "O gue!"?

Becky E Conekin

14 February 2013, 22:03

How wonderful to see the Vu material! I do wish someone could identify the cover image with Lee Miller and some other beauty. Published 1935 doesn't help much, does it? This is a wonderful exhibition and blog! Thank you, Terence Pepper and the NPG!


14 February 2013, 21:57

Very interesting research. I'd love to see more of Man Ray's Vu images!


14 February 2013, 15:48

Terence Pepper in reply to other comments would like to add that although the Cover of Vu at the top of the blog showing Barbette carries a credit line to "Universal Press" it is indeed by Man Ray as an authenticated image of it exists in the J.Paul Getty Museum in California. The translation of "O gue! l`an neuf!" for non French speakers is Happy New Year. Does anyone know who the subject with Miller is on the right. We dont believe it is either Nusch or Ady.

Last Edit: 14 February 2013, 16:01 by admin
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