MAN RAY AT THE NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY

 

Man, RayWoman smoking a cigaretteDate: 1920

Man, Ray
Woman smoking a cigarette
Date: 1920

So I booked a ticket to visit the Man Ray exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in Trafalgar Square, London.  The show opened 7th Feb and runs until 27th May 2013. It is a good idea to book first, as I tried to go the week before, but it had sold out.

Man RaySelf Portrait 1916

Man RaySelf Portrait 1916

Man Ray was born in the USA, as Michael Emmanuel Radnitzky in 1890, after his family had recently emigrated from the Ukraine in 1886. However, he moves in 1921 to France, to immerse himself with the art and culture of this city. Man Ray initially learnt photography as a way of recording his  art assemblages and through out his life would alternate between photographic and other art forms as ways of expressing his ideas. He relinquished painting for a period beginning in 1922 to embark upon his photographic explorations, encouraged by his friend, Marcel Duchamp.   Perhaps much of his success can be attributed to his magazine publications, with its growing audience and popularity in the 1920s. He made experimental and ground breaking work as well as documenting famous friends; dancers, poets, writers, artists and art collectors. This particular exhibition focused upon these vibrant and avant-garde characters, documenting the changing styles of fashion, displaying  images commissioned for magazines like Vogue or Harper’s Bazaar or a photograph taken to promote a book by an author. The exhibition is also a personal record of his relationships with artist friends and lovers, their face and body transformed to convey an idea as well as reveal their intimate connection with the photographer.

Peggy Guggenheim in a dress by Paul Poiret

Peggy Guggenheim in a dress by Paul Poiret

Bernice Abbott - MAN RAY 1921

Bernice Abbott – MAN RAY 1921

Man Ray described himself as a photometrographer, not willing to label himself as painter, photographer or even fully ground himself in a particular movement. He was not officially part of the Surrealists or Dadaists, but shared similar ideologies such as an openess to fortuitous accidents, using puns and humor in his arrangement of objects.

Le Violon D'ingres Man Ray

Le Violon D’ingres Man Ray

This image of  Kiki de Montparnasses entitled ‘Violin d’Ingres’ references the elongated  forms of Ingres’ paintings and also compares Kiki as a hobby or pastime similar to a musical hobby, thus commenting on the objectification of women.

A quote from Under the skin: National Portrait Gallery’s Man Ray exhibition

A compelling new exhibition reveals Man Ray’s ability to capture the soul of his subjects. It’s a rare gift that sets him apart from his fellow Surrealists. By Adrian Hamilton

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/features/under-the-skin-national-portrait-gallerys-man-ray-exhibition-8489029.html

“Just as Picasso’s artistic course could be viewed through his successive lovers, so could Man Ray’s: the Montparnasse model Kiki after he moved to Paris in 1921, then the American photographer and journalist, Lee Miller, from 1929 to 1932, followed by the Guadeloupe dancer, Ady Fidelin, from 1936 to 1940, when he left war-torn France for the US, where he married Juliet Browner, who stayed with him until his death in 1976. His portraits of them, particularly Lee Miller, are suffused with a sense of both affection and admiration.”

Lee Miller became Man Ray’s assistant and muse after finding him in a cafe and announcing she was his next assistant. They discovered the technique of solarisation when she accidentally turned  on the light in the dark room during processing.

solarisation photo of Lee Miller

solarisation photo of Lee Miller

Dora Maar- Man Ray

Dora Maar- Man Ray

Lee Miller- Man Ray

Lee Miller- Man Ray

Juliet Browner in Wrapped Scarf by Man Ray 1945

Juliet Browner in Wrapped Scarf by Man Ray 1945

The above images were not in the exhibition, but are a couple of my favourite images. Juliet Browner, Man Ray’s last partner is shown wrapped in a scarf.

There is at times a sense of dislocation around Man Ray’s portraits, where bodies and heads appear to  float like moons, self-absorbed or dream-like. However, some portraits capture the essence of the sitter, of their strong personality, purposefully constructed infront of the lens.

Man Ray

Tonsure (Marcel Duchamp), 1919 - photo by Man Ray Tonsure (Marcel Duchamp), 1919 – photo by Man Ray

Ava Gardner in costume for Albert Lewin’s Pandora and the Flying Dutchman by Man Ray, 1950Man 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

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