Man Ray's portraits go on show

 
Solarised Portrait of Lee Miller, c. 1929, by Man Ray on show At the National Portrait gallery in London

Man Ray is a name that all students of photography will know. His experimentation and invention of solarisation pushed the medium to new levels.

A newly opened exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery (NPG) in London includes more than 150 vintage prints of his portrait work, taken between 1916 and 1968 - the majority of which have not previously been exhibited in the UK.

Man Ray was born Emmanual Radnitsky in Philadelphia in 1890, though spent his early years in New York where he devoted his time to painting as well as being a self-taught photographer, something he used to fund his artwork. In 1915 he met French artist Marcel Duchamp and it was this that led him to Paris and in turn to his work with the Dada and Surrealist movements of that time.

Man Ray literature Original magazines of Man Ray's work can be seen

His experimentation led to the production of camera-less Rayographs and together with a helping hand from the photographer Lee Miller, invented solarisation. The portrait of Miller at the top of this page is solarised - it's when an image recorded on a negative or on a photographic print is wholly or partially reversed in tone so that dark areas appear light or light areas appear dark.

Duchamp wrote: "It was Man Ray's achievement to treat the camera as he treated the paintbrush, a mere instrument at the service of the mind." Man Ray opened himself up to the possibilities the medium offered, stating he photographed that which he did not wish to paint.

By the outbreak of World War II he had moved to Hollywood and devoted most of his time to painting, though he made a number of significant photographic portraits of film stars. He returned to Paris in 1951 and remained there until his death in 1976, again making a number of celebrated portraits as well as experimenting with colour.

The exhibition follows this chronology and the range of prints on show, drawn from private collections and major museums with special loans from the Man Ray Trust Archive, is truly staggering. Celebrities of the time sit alongside artists and sometimes intimate portraits of friends and lovers.

Woman looking a pictures Many of the prints on show are contact prints

His influence went far and wide, with photographers such as Bernice Abbott and Bill Brandt just two of those whose vision was shaped by Man Ray. But his work was also widely seen in the picture magazines that were popular, such as Vu Vogue and Vanity Fair.

Writing in the introduction to a book that accompanies the exhibition, Terence Pepper, curator of photographs at the NPG, writes: "A natural Dadaist, Man Ray delighted in astounding and bewildering his audience, shaking up familiar habits of thought and pushing the boundaries of the medium."

One of his colour pictures shows Naomi Savage, his one-time assistant who developed her own career as a photographer, and no doubt inspired by Man Ray, also invented a process called photographic engraving. Man Ray told her: "You don't need a huge audience. You only need five or six people who care, and are there to encourage you...

"Don't worry about idealism and practicality... Try to get paid for what you do, and don't worry if you don't. Just keep on working. You'll make up for it in time."

Probably good advice, and if it worked for her, perhaps it will help others today. But one thing is for sure, this exhibition of Man Ray's work will have more than five or six people who care if the number of journalists and photographers who turned out for the press view is anything to go by.

Man Ray Portraits is at the National Portrait Gallery in London until 27 May 2013.

Catherine Deneuve, 1968 by Man Ray, Private lender Catherine Deneuve, 1968 by Man Ray
Le Violon d'Ingres, 1924 by Man Ray, Museum Ludwig Cologne, Photography Collections (Collection Gruber), © Copy Photograph Rheinisches Bildarchiv Köln Le Violon d'Ingres, 1924 by Man Ray
Henry Crowder, 1928 by Man Ray, Collection du Centre Pompidou, Mnam/Cci, Paris, AM 1994-394 (463), © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN / image Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI Henry Crowder, 1928 by Man Ray
Helen Tamiris, 1929 by Man Ray, Collection du Centre Pompidou, Mnam/Cci, Paris, AM 1994-394 (3200), © Centre Pompidou,MNAM-CCI,Di st. RMN/Guy Carrard Helen Tamiris, 1929 by Man Ray
Man Ray Self-Portrait with Camera, 1932 by Man Ray, The Jewish Museum, New York, Purchase: Photography Acquisitions Committee Fund, Horace W. Goldsmith Fund, and Judith and Jack Stern Gift, 2004-16. Photo by Richard Goodbody, Inc. Man Ray Self-Portrait with Camera, 1932 by Man Ray
 
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  • rate this
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    Comment number 25.

    Schwitters AND Man Ray in Britain. Fantastic.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 24.

    23.Al_de_Baran
    It's is simultaneously surprising and unsurprising that an entire article can be written about Man Ray without even mentioning his heavy involvement with the Surrealist movement. Such is historical literacy, or lack of it, these days.
    //////
    It does. Also, as far as I can tell, most of the displayed photos are from what would be considered his Surrealist "phase".

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 23.

    It's is simultaneously surprising and unsurprising that an entire article can be written about Man Ray without even mentioning his heavy involvement with the Surrealist movement. Such is historical literacy, or lack of it, these days.

    At least one of the commentators below thinks to mention the Surrealists, although his remark shows that he obviously doesn't know much about it.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 22.

    I don't like his work

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 21.

    @7 I think the point @5 was making was maybe that there is no page to comment on the NHS. If you navigate to the health pages you can find important stories where the BBC allows no comments. Now, I find that quite surreal...Just so I am not off topic...

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 20.

    Man Ray, one of the few actually genuine talents to come out of the surrealist movement.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 19.

    A friend gave me a Man Ray book years ago. Always been a big fan of the Dada movement. Never seen an exhibition of his work, so hugely looking forward to this. The solarisation never was my main reason for liking him though, it was the compostion and choice of subjects, backgrounds etc. that I found hugely inspiring.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 18.

    9.Pedicabo consequentias
    Art - superficiality at its best.
    Pedicabo consequentias - snobbishness at its best.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 17.

    @9.Pedicabo consequentias

    "There's a whole bunch of stuff that is just crying out for lengthy, uniformed, opinionated, partisan, highly inaccurate and superficial comment - and Man Ray isn't one of them."

    Multiple levels of irony are at work here.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 16.

    I always think that Man Rays work is somewhat crude , his so called technique of solarisation was almost certainly discovered as a result of accidentally exposing his film or print to light., he then continued to use this hit and miss "technique" to embellish his relatively mundane portraits .

  • rate this
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    Comment number 15.

    I'm not convinced that Man Ray / Lee Miller 'invented' solarisation. 'Re-discovered' it may be a better description, as it was in use in the mid to late 1800's.

    Incidentally, to get more insight into the association between Man Ray and Lee Miller, get to hear a talk by Miller's son, Antony Penrose (http://www.robbolershootspeople.com/lee_miller_war_fashion_photographer_talk.html)

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 14.

    I wish there were more images on this site. There can never be enough. I really enjoy looking at all photographers work, no matter how 'bad' or 'good'. More please! Anyway, it struck me how contemporary the image of Helen Tamiris is, despite it being nearly captured nearly 100 years ago! A man (excuse the pun) ahead of his time? . . .

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 13.

    "as being a self-taught photographer"

    There's a key point here, this sort of skill cannot be learnt academically, as far as I know, all the "greats" were self taught.
    To be good you need only skill, talent and a passionate interest in photography. Academics are for people who see it as a career.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 12.

    Man Ray is an inspirational photographer who was a pioneer in the way he mixed artistry & technique.

    Le Violon d'Ingres, Tears, Prayer & Lee Miller en robe de soie are fantastic examples of where he's taken portraiture to the next level and reformed the traditional approach to create greater impact.

    Fully recommend to anyone to go and see his exhibition.

    Beautiful. Brilliant. Iconic.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 11.

    More fascinating and enlightening stuff... I'd heard the name 'Man Ray' & even of the process 'solarisation' - but had not hitherto known why Ray was a 'known name' or what 'solarisation' invovled. However the picture using the process is more enlightening than the verbal description.

    Please continue offering articles like this. It may be a trivial HYS but at least it lets me say I want more :)

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 10.

    Comment No 9 is a bit silly 'Art - superficiality at its best' you obviously don't get out much!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 9.

    While this isn't the section for commenting upon the NHS (or anything other than Man Ray) I do wonder who the BBC put in charge of deciding what is open for comments at any given time.

    There's a whole bunch of stuff that is just crying out for lengthy, uniformed, opinionated, partisan, highly inaccurate and superficial comment - and Man Ray isn't one of them.

    Art - superficiality at its best.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 8.

    7. Respighi
    Really good article and some excellent works shown here. Of the five pictures at the end of the article, numbers 1,2 and 4 stand out for me. The shock of hair on the woman is quite amazing. I'm no great art fan or critic,
    -
    I particularly like the self portrait, if i squint and use artistic licence it look like Huhne squirreling away his payoff for resigning.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 7.

    Re:5. I think your navigational skills need a little work - NHS is on another page - try Health.

    Really good article and some excellent works shown here. Of the five pictures at the end of the article, numbers 1,2 and 4 stand out for me. The shock of hair on the woman is quite amazing. I'm no great art fan or critic, but I know what I like to see and something new is always good.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 6.

    Today I learn.

 

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