Man Ray (born Emmanuel Radnitzky; 1890–1976)
A man of many ideas, Man Ray always endeavored to materialize a particular idea using whatever he found to be the most appropriate medium. In the artist’s own words:
“I paint what cannot be photographed, and I photograph what I do not wish to paint.”
Man Ray (born Emmanuel Radnitzky; 1890–1976) is celebrated for his Surrealist photographs and his camera-less photograms known as “rayographs.” But throughout his career, the artist—who landed in New York at the age of seven and moved to Paris in his thirties—produced major works across a wide range of artistic disciplines including painting, film, sculpture, printmaking, tapestry, and poetry.
A man of many ideas, Man Ray always endeavored to materialize a particular idea using whatever he found to be the most appropriate medium. In the artist’s own words : “I paint what cannot be photographed, and I photograph what I do not wish to paint.”1
After meeting Marcel Duchamp in New York, Man Ray packed up his paints and cameras and followed his friend (and sometimes collaborator) to Paris in 1921. As the principal American participant in the Dadaist movement and alongside Parisian Surrealist painters, Man Ray found the artistic freedom he so craved.
Experimenting in his darkroom he placed objects on light-sensitive paper to create his signature artform—the “rayograph”—which Jean Cocteau aptly described as “paintings with light.”2 Working with muse and protégé Lee Miller, Man Ray used the process of solarization to create stunning portraits, nudes and still-lifes in which subjects circumscribed by shadowy lines appear to radiate a heavenly light.
In addition to his studio practice, Man Ray worked on and off as a fashion photographer for magazines including Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue. Even while making photographs within a commercial context, Man Ray introduced elements of his avant-garde style including double exposures, multiple shadows, severed limbs, masks, and veils. Some of the artist’s most iconic images—like the portrait of Kiki de Montparnasse next to a wooden African mask (Noir et blanc, 1926)—were first published in fashion magazines.
Over the course of more than half a century, Man Ray produced a materially and conceptually varied body of work that remains influential to this day. During his career, the artist collaborated with a diverse group of creatives ranging from Kiki de Montparnasse and Francis Picabia, to Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel.
It is in this spirit, and with great pleasure, that Alba Amicorum, working in collaboration with the Man Ray Trust, presents a new interpretation of Man Ray’s work: a limited-edition series of scarves based on original paintings and photographic works.
Our collection includes the following four scarves:
MAN RAY I (after Untitled rayograph, 1921)
In 1921, the year he settled in Paris, Man Ray made his first “rayograph” by placing objects on light-sensitive paper and exposing them to light. The artist delightedly described this new technique to a friend in 1922, writing “I have finally freed myself from the sticky medium of paint, and am working directly with light itself.” The transparent quality of this silk scarf further enhances the interplay of light and shadow in Man Ray’s original rayograph.
MAN RAY II (after Sleeping Woman, 1930)
In 1930, Lee Miller a young American model and aspiring artist arrived in Paris with the intention of studying photography under Man Ray. Miller quickly became Man Ray’s muse, collaborator and lover. The image featured on this scarf is Man Ray’s iconic solarized portrait of Miller. Repeating Miller’s likeness in each corner of this scarf, this kaleidoscopic homage to Sleeping Woman creates beautiful abstract shapes and patterns in the negative space surrounding Miller’s sinuous haloed form.
MAN RAY III (after Le Beau Temps, 1939)
Although he is best known for his Surrealist photographs and for the camera-less darkroom experiments he dubbed “rayographs,” Man Ray began his artistic career as a painter and continued to paint throughout his life. Le Beautemps, a Surrealist painting featuring several of Man Ray’s signature motifs including the checkerboard and mathematical diagrams, was made in 1939, just as war was breaking out across Europe. The rich cashmere used for this scarf accentuates the painting’s dreamy composition and vivid palette.
MAN RAY IV (after “Non-Abstraction” 1947)
During World War II, May Ray returned to the United States from France and remained in Los Angeles until 1951. While in California, the artist received commissions to paint portraits of Hollywood stars like Ava Gardner, but also continued to make paintings in the Surrealist style he had been honing in Paris. This 1947 painting features a pair of bright red lips—a motif that first appeared in Man Ray’s oeuvre in the 1930s. Here, the iconic red mouth comprises part of a mysterious semi-abstracted face, which competes for attention with irregular vertical and horizontal bands. Reborn as a cashmere scarf where multiple viewpoints are made possible, Man Ray’s imagery becomes even more abstract.
– Text by Mara Hoberman
1 As quoted by Arturo Schwarz in “Man Ray: The rigour of Imagination” (Rizzoli: New York, 1977) p. 12
2 Jean Cocteau, “Lettre ouverte à Man Ray, photograph américain,” Les Feuilles libres 26 (April–May 1922)