Man Ray

1890 - 1976 · United States

Artist biography

Man Ray was an American painter born in Philadelphia in 1934. His art was vaguely associated with the avant-garde movement especially to Surrealism and Dadaism. The artist considered himself primarily a painter even if he also worked as a photographer.

Born in a Russian Jewish family, the artist had a brother and two sisters. The family decided to change their last name from Radnitzky to Ray, to further integrate into American society. Man Ray’s father was a garment factory worker and his mother enjoyed designing clothes from scraps of fabric.

Since he was a little kid he showed artistic tendencies and enjoyed visiting local art museums. He was offered a scholarship to become an architect but refused it to pursue a more suiting career in the arts. In his early ages he worked as a commercial illustrator for several Manhattan companies. A great admirer of the avant-garde movement, most of his noticeable art development came after he enrolled at the art academy Ferrer School in the fall of 1912.

He got introduced to contemporary artists at the International Exhibition of Modern Art in 1913, and started adapting their techniques of movement in static paintings, such as The Rope Dancer Accompanies Herself with Her Shadows (1916). His first noticeable work as a photographer would come years later in 1918, when he used the camera to document his own artworks. In 1920 he helped his friend and artist Marcel Duchamp in creating Rotary Glass Plates, one of the earliest pieces of kinetic art.

In 1921 he moved with his Belgian wife poet Adon Lacroix to Montparnasse, one of the most artistic and bohemian neighborhoods in the city center of Paris. There he meets Kiki, an artist’s model who becomes a recurring muse in his photography. He was adopted as a prestigious photographer within the artistic Parisian scene and many notorious art figures posed for him as his photography models.

After World War II started, Man Ray had to move back to the US. He then shifted again back to painting and met his second wife Juliet Browner. They move together back to Paris in 1951, where he decided to reinvent a lot of his previous artworks. Man Ray managed to develop many art techniques in modern art, photography and filmmaking. This is the case of his surrealist photograms and solarizations.

Man Ray

  • Artworks in Collections 2
  • Exhibitions 25

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