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.
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.
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