1916 to 1976

   

New York 1916-20

Born Michael Emmanuel Radnitzky in Philadelphia in 1890, Man Ray initially taught himself photography in order to reproduce his own works of art. In 1912 he began to change the signature on his paintings from ER to Man Ray, and the Radnitzky family adopted this shorter surname.

Man Ray’s earliest photographs date from around 1916, when he documented his own Dada self-portrait and made portraits of Marcel Duchamp. Man Ray’s support and promotion of avant-garde artists was formalised in 1920, when American patron Katherine Dreier invited Man Ray and Duchamp to establish the Société Anonyme, America’s first contemporary art collection.


Le Violon d’ingres, by Man Ray, 1924. Museum Ludwig Cologne, Photography Collections (Collection Gruber) © Man Ray Trust / ADAGP © Copy Photograph Rheinisches Bildarchiv Köln

Le Violon d’ingres
by Man Ray, 1924.
Museum Ludwig Cologne, Photography Collections (Collection Gruber) © Man Ray Trust / ADAGP © Copy Photograph Rheinisches Bildarchiv Köln

 

Paris 1921-28

Despite Man Ray’s best efforts to promote Dada in New York, in 1921 he resolved to follow Duchamp to Paris where he expected his work to be better appreciated.

In December that year Man Ray held his first solo exhibition in Paris, Exposition Dada Man Ray. While critically well-received, the exhibition was not financially successful and he focused his artistic efforts on photography.

Man Ray established his first major studio in 1922 and in the following six years his important early works include two studies of his muse and lover Kiki (born Alice Prin), Violon d’Ingres and Noire et Blanche.


Solarised Portrait of Lee Miller by Man Ray, c.1929. The Penrose Collection © Man Ray Trust/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2012, courtesy The Penrose Collection. Image courtesy the Lee Miller Archives

Solarised Portrait of Lee Miller
by Man Ray, c.1929.
The Penrose Collection © Man Ray Trust/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2012, courtesy The Penrose Collection. Image courtesy the Lee Miller Archives

 

Paris 1929-37

One of Man Ray’s most important creative and personal collaborations was with the American-born photographer and fashion model Lee Miller, whom he first met in the summer of 1929, and together they developed the process of solarisation.

In 1934, with the editorial assistance of James Thrall Soby, Man Ray published a major collection of his photographic works. This was accompanied by a number of exhibitions including one at Lund Humphries Gallery, 12 Bedford Square, London.

Man Ray met Ady Fidelin in 1936 – a dancer from Guadeloupe who became the subject of many of his photographs. After the German invasion of France in 1940, Man Ray returned to the United States while Ady remained in France to stay near her family and safeguard many of his artworks.


Juliet with Brazilian Headdress, 1945 by Man Ray The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 84.XM.1000.69 © Man Ray Trust ARS-ADAGP

Juliet with Brazilian Headdress
by Man Ray, 1945
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 84.XM.1000.69 © Man Ray Trust ARS-ADAGP

 

Hollywood 1940-50

Man Ray travelled to Hollywood where he met Juliet Browner, a 28-year-old dancer and artist’s model who had moved to California a year earlier. She became his muse and companion for the next thirty-six years.

During the next ten years, Man Ray was principally concerned with being a painter, but he continued to take occasional photographic portraits of friends and figures in the film and arts community. One of his last portraits made in Hollywood was a commission to photograph Ava Gardner in her role as Pandora in Albert Lewin’s film Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (1951).


Ava Gardner in costume for Albert Lewin's Pandora and the Flying Dutchman, 1950 by Man Ray Man Ray Trust © Man Ray Trust/ADAGP/DACS

Ava Gardner in costume for Albert Lewin's Pandora and the Flying Dutchman
by Man Ray, 1950
Man Ray Trust © Man Ray Trust/ADAGP/DACS

 

Paris 1951-76

Like other European artistic exiles who had gone to America during the War years, Man Ray returned to Paris in 1951. In June he moved into 2 bis rue Férou, which became his final studio and home for the next twenty-five years.

During this time, Man Ray was primarily concerned with making editions of his artwork, writing an autobiography Man Ray Self-Portrait (1963), and contributing to many retrospective exhibitions. However he experimented with new colour photographic processes, making colour portraits including those of Juliette Greco and Yves Montand.

In August 1976 Man Ray celebrated his eighty-sixth and last birthday, and was awarded the order of Artistic Merit by the French government.