The American-born modern artist Man Ray pursued
his love of art in Paris, where he was instrumental in the Surrealist
and Dadaists movements. While he is famous for his fashion photography,
as well as his portraits, he called himself a painter.
Photographer Man Ray
Man Ray dabbled in all areas of art from sculpture
and collage to performance art and painting and he was given
the title as one the top significant artists of the 20th century
by ARTnews magazine.
While his work and his persona gathered much attention
and scrutiny, Many Ray preferred to keep the details of his
early life private.
Born 1890 né Emmanuel Radnitzky in Pennsylvania,
his Russian-Jewish parents, along with Man Ray and his brother
and two sisters, eventually lived in Brooklyn, New York. It
was his parents who changed their last name to Ray as a defense
against anti-Semitism. Emmanuel Ray shortened his first name
to Man, and eventually used his first and last name as one.
His father was a tailor who also worked in a garment
factory and his mother made clothes for the family, which influenced
the artist later in his professional life. The tools of his
parents trade fabric, needles, sewing machines, etc. all appeared
at one time or another in his mixed media work.
While Man Ray learned the techniques of basic
art he also examined the works the early European painters,
known as the Old Masters. After he finished high school, he
received a scholarship to pursue architecture but decided he
wanted to be an artist instead. While his parents preferred
a more stable career for him, they did support his decision
and provided a small room that he could use as a studio.
While he attempted to paint in the style of the
Old Masters, he admired the work of modernists such as Alfred
Stieglitz and those of the Ashcan School. His enrollment at
the Ferrer School in 1912 is where he came into his own as an
The work of artist Marcel Duchamp influenced Man
Ray's paintings, such as the 1916 "The Roper Dancer Accompanies
Herself with Shadows," in which the figures appeared to
His first solo exhibition took place in 1915 and
the next year "Self Portrait," a Dadaist assemblage
was shown at the Daniel Gallery. The object contained a doorbell
that did not work, frustrating those who attended the exhibition
in 1916. Man Ray soon gave up traditional painting and began
assembling portraits using photography and mechanical techniques.
In an effort to push the bounds of photography
and merge it into art, Man Ray used various photographic techniques
such as solarization, artistic cropping of photos, and over-development
in order to create a feel of surrealism. Man Ray also admired
the female form and many of his photographs pushed the bounds
of taste at the time. He also created photograms which he renamed
Rayogrammes which involved laying objects on a piece of photo
paper and exposing them to light.
Even though he considered himself a painter, Man
Ray never made much money from this form of artwork. It was
his photography for Vanity Fair, Vogue and Bazaar that paid
his bills and got him international acclaim.
While still in New York, Man Ray married Belgian
poet Adon Lacroix in 1914. The marriage did not last long, with
the couple separating five years later and divorcing in 1937.
Man Ray moved to Paris in 1921 and soon became
entranced with artists' model Kiki de Montparnasse. They stayed
together for almost a decade and some of Man Ray's most famous
photographs and his experimental films featured Montparnasse.
His photography as art developed greatly
while in France, and many important people posed for portraits
by Man Ray, including Gertrude Stein, James Joyce and
His surrealistic art was first represented in
1925 at the Galerie Pierre. Man Ray returned briefly to the
United States during World War II, and lived in Los Angeles
during the 1940s. He married Juliet Browner, a dancer and model,
in 1946. Man Ray moved back to Montparnasse with his wife in
the early 1950s and died November 18, 1976 in Paris from a lung
The Rumor Mill
The rumor mill has stated that in addition to
the truthful biography already presented there is a not so truthful
tale stating that Man Ray once rode a manta ray in a SeaWorld
underwater rodeo. What you do with this rumor is up to you.