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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?


07 April 2015, 04:29

@Terence Pepper:
The sculptor working on Man Ray is indeed Paul Hamann - I knew him and his wife when I was a child and visited his studio may times in the late 1940s and early 1950s. He told me about his life mask method and showed me many examples of masks made this way as well as sculptures in bronze and clay.

Terence Pepper

24 May 2013, 17:18

Thanks to all those commenting earlier. Further replied to follow. In the meantime I would like to share a new discovery that we have just had brought to our attention. There is an assisted Self-Portrait photograph of Man Ray sitting for a Life Mask with an unidentified figure on the right side of the image and illustrated in the catalogue as Plate100. We have heard from the artist’s grand-daughter that the man applying a latex-like material to Man Ray's face is Paul Hamann. It is one of series of many made in the 1930s of famous subjects such as Jean Cocteua and Bertold Brecht. Harmann was invited to Britain by Harold Nicholson and made masks of subjects such as Noel Coward and Aldous Huxley. The head of the former is currently on show in Room 31. We will update the label for the exhibition's next venue in Edinburgh where it opens in late June

Jo Fenwick

09 May 2013, 04:57

My Observations Captured 05.05.13 of Manray's Portraits The smell of chic slick evocative the sound of still quiet echoing contemplation low key light smooth easy atmosphere images are small intimate vintage textured prints century old living things that communicate and age and have flaws sensual androgyny a fascination invoking strange deep sensations humanity people at ease with themselves confident bold poses despite imperfect bodies proud to be unusual strong light and deep dark shadows many shades of black through to white odd people but proud of who they are not ashamed on the fringe of high society the dada surrealists pushing ideas boundaries the artists creators composers performers writers actors captured a slice of culture of the time stylised erotic beautiful delicate glowing strange women and imposing stern pensive ugly men who are normally hidden from view merely famous names and works even most influential work is inspired by others before them suicide common but a good solution? a blurring of boundaries softened fa ces so real yet surreal looking back towards you across you almost see slight movement perhaps hear soft sighs of breathing staring off at what? so many influential individuals so many lives lived works captured extravagant experiences indulgent richness a split second of time a 'decisive moment' long gone each soul unique each life complete and over no longer existing except for their legacy and beautifully captured sensational portraits


08 April 2013, 10:18

A most enjoyable show, with an excellent selection and sequencing. I cannot add to the comments on aesthetics and social context, but I have a slight niggle about the lack of technical information on methods of capture and printing. The website has an accessible and useful glossary of terms, but I found I wasn't always able to apply this information reliably to each print. The solarisation prints are quite easily detected, but other formats are a little more difficult to distinguish. Not a big enough caveat to detract from the pleasure of this memorable show, however.


20 March 2013, 16:46

I very much enjoyed the show! It changed my opinion of Man Ray and it was really refreshing to NOT see rayographs.
I thought the portrait exhibition fit really well with the NPG's focus on the individuals pictured while also showing great work by a canonical photographer. What particularly struck my fancy was the way Man Ray captured the personalities of some of my favorite artists, thinkers, writers, and musicians living in Paris at the time. The photograph of Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein summed up everything I had gathered about the couple from reading The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein. It was interesting to see the pair, in the home I had heard so much about and embodying the characters I imagined them to be; Stein: imposing, critical, tough and regal, Toklas: meek, small, deferential. It looks like Alice has just served Gertrude the cup of tea on the sofa. According to the Smithsonian, this picture was taken just after Man Ray met the couple for the first time. Perhaps I was reading too much into the portrait, but I do find it remarkable that he captured the two women as he did after just meeting them.

Felicity Cole

14 March 2013, 13:24

Many congratulations on a wonderful show. I particularly loved MR's intimate portraits of Juliet and the inclusion of the images of them both in the Paris apartment gave welcome insight into the man (no pun intended) behind the images. I have a question which I wonder if you could answer: my understanding is that it was Steichen who suggested to Lee Miller that she go to Paris to study with Man Ray. Steichen makes no mention of Man Ray in his autobiography although they had several things in common, including the fact that they were both living in France in the early 1920s, and they were both friends of Gertrude Stein. Man Ray had also been a visitor at 291 whilst he was living in New York. Do you know whether they were friends (or if they even knew each other) or whether Steichen merely admired Man Ray's work from a distance?

Terence Pepper

28 February 2013, 20:17

Terence Pepper replies to Antony Penrose: Thank you for sharing information from Tanja Ramm's daughter. I certainly agree it can’t be her. Would Margit know anything about the identity of someone referred to as "Belbourne". This is the name given to the other" lips" seen with Lee Miller's in a wider crop of the image published in Ingrid Schaffner's book 'The Essential Man Ray" on page 93-4. I have also recently come across a list Man Ray made in one of his appointment books of 20 or so "models" that he worked with. I will try to locate this list again and post a transcription in case anyone knows more about any of these people! On the earlier point I do feel very sorry that we were not able to include an image of Roland Penrose by Man Ray in the exhibition as he did of course have a close friendship with him over a number of years and write the important 1975 biography. This is the book that also illustrates the famous "Surrealist Checkerboard " portrait that Man Ray made up of so many of his surrealist heads. It was high on my wants list to include and it was only at the very last minute that we found the current owner..the Israel Museum in Jerusalem who had acquired it as part of the collection from Arturo Schwarz. We are hoping to be able to include Lee Miller's Picnic Group that includes Penrose, Ady, Nusch and Man Ray when the Man Ray exhibition goes on tour. It is reproduced in the catalogue but we are still in the process of acquiring a print to add to our small but growing number of images taken by Lee Miller.

Terence Pepper

27 February 2013, 20:17

Dear Stephanie, Thank you for your kind comments about the show. The New York seated lying down nude from 1920 with the crossed legs originally appealed to me as it was one of two very early prints in the Getty Museum collection mounted on original reddish-orange coloured mounts that later became one of the colours most associated with the Surrealists. Unfortunately it was not possible to borrow the pair to this image because of its fragile state but I was interested in the image as it showed Man Ray's painterly interest in the female nude and preceded his collaborations with Kiki de Montparnasse who possessed a similarly voluptuous body shape. One of our visitors thought the nude represented Berenice Abbott whom Man Ray did photograph in New York before meeting her again in Paris. There are also surviving nude studies of Berenice Abbott viewable in the Man Ray archive on the Pompidou website but her body shape is much slighte and facially they are not identical although both have "short" haircuts. It was also revealed by this acknowledged expert that Abbott does appear as the hidden nude in his 1920 work Coat Stand (or Portmanteau) which is an interesting insight. She did not want this information revealed in her lifetime. She worked as Man Ray's assistant in his Paris studio for several years before becoming a highly regarded photographer own right known for her portraits and studies of skyscrapers in New York. It’s thrilling that there has been so much interest in Man Ray and the exhibition and other previously unknown works are emerging. From the 1st March as part of our Photograph of the Month series in Room 31, we are showing Man Ray's portrait of Katya Krassin, the theatrical costumier and daughter of a Soviet diplomat alongside another study of her by F.J.Gutmann (later Francis Goodman) who is also depicted in a solarised portrait by Winifred Casson..Presumably inspired by the publication of Man Ray's solarised works. When published in the Modern Photography Annual the caption notes claim that it was after Man Ray had seen Goodman's portrait he was then anxious to meet and photograph her. We hope more information might be revealed on any further connections between the two photographers when a further display on Goodman opens in April to mark his centenary.

Antony Penrose

27 February 2013, 18:04

Margit Rowell, daughter of Tanja Ramm, tells me that the lips definitely do not belong to Tanja. Are there any other suggestions?

Antony Penrose

26 February 2013, 13:15

What a fabulous show - many congratulations. My only sadness is you did not have Roland Penrose's portrait in there - one of Man Ray's oldest friends and his biographer.
As for the double lips - the second pair could easily belong to Tanja Ramm but its hard to authenticate this. One thing is for sure and that is Man Ray's fascination with Lee's lips started way ahead of his huge portrait Les Amoureux. Here we see them with what could be a reflection - the same duality he riffs on in Les Amoreux, a motif adopted by both Picasso and Roland Penrose as a signature for Lee Miller. This kiss left a trail that is still being follwoed by avid trackers.

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