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Man Ray’s Photograms as Art

Man Ray, who was born in the USA is a Russian-Jewish emigrant, who became a prominent photographer in the 20-th century. He is being acknowledged to be one of the 25 influential artists of the 20-th century (Chilvers, 136). His versatile works fascinated people of that time and gave him a worldwide recognition. His informal connection to the movements of Dada and Surrealism left a great contribution to them from his side. The real name of Man Ray is Emmanuel Radnitzky, which he denied as soon as his first recognition, his claim was that he “has always been May Ray” (Baldwin, p. 63).

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The aspiration of a future photographer revealed in early ages, he collected pins, miscellaneous objects. Besides, he managed to receive solid skills in drafting and other basic techniques in the school for boys, where he studied. Moreover, he continued a self-teach at the local museums, studying the paintings of other artists. As soon as he graduated from school, he was offered a scholarship to go and to major in architect, May Ray refused to take it and instead he chose a career of an artist, giving inconveniences to his family as he set up his studio right in the apartment, where they lied. During his study he had a part0time job, being a commercial artist for several companies at Manhattan. The early career of the painter is marked by his attempting the paintings and drawings of the nineteenth century. And he appears to be an admirer of the avant-garde movement of that time. Then, while he lives in New York, he reveals some aspects of cubism. 1915 was marked for a painter as a year, when he made his first solo-exhibition of paintings thanks to his friend Marcel Duchamp. After that Man Ray gives up conventional painting to devote himself to Dada. This is the new start for his dedication.

As Dada is the radical anti-art movement, May Ray involves himself in making objects and developing unique mechanic techniques of making different images. That is the method, which gave Man Ray the most prominence. He helps Duchamp in making his machine. But in the published in 1920 article in New York Data article he declared “Dada cannot live in New York. All New York is Dada and will not tolerate a rival,–will not notice Dada” (Foster, p. 77). As the artist does not believe in the development of Dada in New York, he leaves for Paris, where he spends most of his life, got married, then divorced and met his lover, the famous artist model Kiki de Montparnasse, whom he gave up to start a new love affair with a famous Surrealist photographer Lee Miller. For the next 20 years he made his mark on the art of the photography as together with Lee Miller they managed to develop the technique of solarization and the technique of photograms, which he himself called rayograms. The technique of photogram was also developed by Christian Schad (which he called schadograms), Susan Derges, Pablo Picasso etc. This technique stands for making images without a camera. So, May Ray tried the unexpected negative images, using different objects, easy to identify (spoons or necklaces). He developed the technique and lifted it up to the level of art. And besides, Man Ray’s name is closely connected with this word.

Then, before the Second World War he had to leave Paris and to go back to America, but did not feel like to staying there. Still, he managed to marry one more time there. He wanted to come back to Paris and did go there, where he died in 1976.

Works Cited

  1. Chilvers, Ian. A Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Art. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999
  2. Neil Baldwin; Man Ray: American Artist; Da Capo Press (2000)
  3. Stephen C. Foster “New York Dada” Art journal 54.2 (1995): 75-83.

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