Man Ray

Date/place of birth

August 27, 1890, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Day/place of death

November 18, 1976, Paris, France

Man Ray - Objet Indestructible (Metronom)
Man Ray - Objet Indestructible (Metronom)

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Man Ray biography

Man Ray, together with his friend Marcel Duchamp, was one of the pioneers of modernism; the American photographer, painter, film maker and object artist is considered one of the most significant representatives of Dadaism and Surrealism and ensured numerous important impulses in international art history.

Man Ray – Art studies against his parent’s wishes

Man Ray was born Emmanuel Rudnitzky in Philadelphia in the US state of Pennsylvania on 27 August 1890. The eldest son of a Russian Jewish family, he and his three siblings had a strict upbringing and later spoke only rarely and reservedly about his home. The profession of tailer, practiced by his father, shaped the artist’s childhood and later his creative work, learning to sew and knit and the technique of patchwork. Man Ray’s enthusiasm for drawing, which he had already exercised as a seven-year-old with coloured pencils, led to his attendance at an art and drawing course at the High School – but without the knowledge of his parents who were opposed to their son’s artistic inclination. Man Ray resisted his parent’s wish of studying architecture, rejecting the offer of a scholarship, and instead enrolled at the National Academy of Design and the Art Students League in New York. According to the artist, he only attended the life drawing classes because of his wish as a young man to see a naked woman.

Orientation to the European avant-garde

Man Ray did not get on with the strictly didactic academy system and soon broke off his studies, on the recommendation also of his teacher, but continued his education with evening courses whilst seeking his way as a freelance artist. Alfred Stieglitz opened the door to the art of Pablo Picasso, Auguste Rodin, Paul Cézanne and Constantin Brâncuși, and Man Ray soon felt more connected to the European avant-garde than to the contemporary American art scene. He experimented intensely and in rapid succession with different painting styles in pursuit of is own language. The young artist felt deep veneration for Marcel Duchamp, whose Nu descendant un escalier no. 2 he had admired at the Armory Show. At their first meeting they were unable to understand each other due to the language barrier and therefore played a game of tennis. This hurdle was soon overcome, however, and the men became close friends, Man Ray assisting Duchamp on several projects.

The pioneer of Dadaism and Surrealism

Together with his friends Duchamp and Robert Henri, Man Ray founded New York Dadaism, turning ever more to photography, quickly recognising the camera as the ideal tool to express his ideas and concepts. In the process, he manipulated the technology of the camera and the lighting conditions so skilfully that surrealistic pictorial worlds increasingly emerged. His preoccupation with the photogram gave rise to rayography, with which he lent everyday objects a mysterious aura. With his interpretation of object art, he was following the concept of the Ready Made of his friend Duchamp. In 1921 he arrived in Paris, where he played a formative role in the birth of Surrealism in the circle of young artists around André Breton and Paul Eluard, conducted a short-lived affair with the American artist Lee Miller, and developed the technique of solarisation. His comprehensive experiments and versatile ideas left a lasting impression on the history of art of the 20th century.

Man Ray died in Paris on 18 November 1976.

© Kunsthaus Lempertz

Man Ray Prices

Man RayObjet Indestructible (Metronom)€42.840
Man RayUntitled (Rayographs)€25.620
Man RayUntitled (Shadow Drawing)€24.800
Man RayL'Astrolabe€24.000
Man RayEffacement€15.860

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