Man Ray Portraits

Past exhibition archive
7 February - 27 May 2013

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✰✰✰✰ Evening Standard

✰✰✰✰ Metro

Man Ray Portraits was the first major museum retrospective of this innovative and influential artist’s photographic portraits.

Focusing on his career in America and Paris between 1916 and 1968, the exhibition highlighted Man Ray’s central position among the leading artists of the Dada and Surrealist movements and the significant range of contemporaries, celebrities, friends and lovers that he captured: from Marcel Duchamp and Pablo Picasso to Kiki de Montparnasse, Lee Miller and Catherine Deneuve.

Featuring over 150 vintage prints and key works from international museums and private collections, the exhibition also demonstrated Man Ray’s use of revolutionary photographic techniques and early experiments with colour, as well as surveying his published work in leading magazines such as Vogue and Vanity Fair.

Supported by the Man Ray Portraits Exhibition Supporters Group

Spring Season 2013 sponsored by

Herbert Smith Freehills logo

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

Curators blog

Read the exhibition curator Terence Peppers blog on Man Rays published work in magazines.

Man Ray, 1916 to 1976

New York 1916–28

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
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.

Paris 1929–37

Solarised Portrait of Lee Miller
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

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
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).

Paris 1951–76

Ava Gardner in costume for Albert Lewin's Pandora and the Flying Dutchman
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

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.



Works of art made from pieces of or whole natural or everyday objects. Often sheet metal is used, but many other materials are suitable. They are put together with techniques such as glueing, welding or soldering.

Bromide print
A print made using paper containing silver bromide that was sufficiently sensitive to light to be used for enlargements. Bromide papers came into general use around 1880 and became the most popular and widely used paper for black and white photography in the twentieth century. It is produced in a range of finishes: matt, glossy and semi-matt.

Contact print
A photographic image produced from a film, usually a negative. The defining characteristic of a contact print is that the photographic result is made by exposing through the film original onto a light sensitive material pressed tightly to the film. As the process produces neither enlargement nor reduction, the image on the paper print is exactly the same size as the image on the negative meaning a whole 35mm film can be viewed as one contact sheet if needed.

In many photographic processes a negative is considered a master image from which other prints are produced. A negative image is a tonal inversion of a positive image, in which light areas appear dark and vice versa. A negative colour image is additionally colour reversed, with red areas appearing cyan, greens appearing magenta and blues appearing yellow.

A photomechanical printing process for reproducing photographs in large editions invented in 1879 by Karl Klic of Vienna. Similar to an etching process, it uses a polished copper plate upon which a fine resin dust is adhered by heat. The plate is etched with acid in differing depths in proportion to the tones of the picture, the shadows being the deepest and holding the most ink. The technique was used for reproductions of the work of many of the best-known pictorial photographers in the 1890s and 1900s. Variants of photogravures include the rotogravure process used in luxury magazines from the 1910s to 1950s, and heliogravures, a process Man Ray used from 1934.

Photomontage is the process, and result, of making a composite photograph by cutting and joining a number of other photographs. The composite picture is sometimes photographed so that the final image is converted back into a seamless photographic print.

Proof print
A print that is used for checking that an image, text, graphics and colours will come out as expected before the image is printed or published.

Silver print or gelatin silver print
Print produced on the most common form of photographic paper up to the present day, introduced into general use in the 1880s. These prints are made with silver halides suspended in a layer of gelatin on fibre based paper. They are developed using the three-bath chemistry of developer, stop, and fixer, and can be chemically toned to alter the finished look of the print.

Solarisation or Sabattier effect
An effect achieved when a photograph which has been developed, but not fixed, is exposed to light, and then continues to be developed. The resulting image has both positive and negative qualities.

Photogram or ‘Rayograph’
A photographic image made without a camera by placing objects on a sheet of photosensitised paper and exposing it to light. Man Ray’s earliest photograms date from shortly after his move to Paris in 1921, which he called ‘rayographs’, in part a play on his name.

A positive photographic image printed on a transparent base, usually glass or film, which can be viewed by light. In the 1950s Man Ray developed a technique of coating the reverse of his transparencies, which he tried to patent unsuccessfully.

Three-colour carbon transfer print
The tri-colour carbro process involved the printing of three negatives taken through red, green and blue filters on carbon tissue that are then transferred, one after the other, onto paper to form the final print.

Vintage print
There is no uniform definition of a Vintage print but it is generally considered to be a print made close to the time at which the negative was first exposed or a print made immediately after developing a negative. Vintage prints often have a premium attached because they are considered the original piece of art. Many photographers choose to sign their vintage prints.