Those interested in the history of the modern arts world in the first half of the 20th century in Europe will also find it very interesting.
|Entrance to Man Ray Portraits|
It's the first museum exhibition to focus solely on Man Ray's photographic portraiture. Amongst the 150 prints on display are works which have never previously been exhibited in the UK including studies of Barbette, Catherine Deneuve, Ava Gardner, Lee Miller and Kiki de Montparnasse.
The prints have been drawn from private collections - including the Sir Elton John Photographic Collection and the collections of major museums including the Pompidou Centre, the J. Paul Getty Museum and New York’s The Museum of Modern Art and Metropolitan Museum of Art, and special loans from the Man Ray Trust Archive. The majority of the prints on display have not previously been exhibited in the United Kingdom.
My impressions were that this exhibition is
- a landmark - most of us are unlikely to see an exhibition of this size devoted to the work of Man Ray again in our lifetime
- an essay on modern arts in the first half of the 20th century. Everybody he photographs are either "somebody" in the arts world or one of his muses/models/lovers
- a dance on the edge of surrealism - friends with a lot of Surrealists, some mind-bending photographs which "pun" on other classic images but not quite a Surrealist at the end of the day
- an education in how to create a portrait
- an education in how to make photographic portraiture iconic and/or interesting.
"I paint what cannot be photographed, that which comes from the imagination or from dreams, or from an unconscious drive. I photograph the things that I do not wish to paint, the things which already have an existence."
Undated interview, circa 1970s; published in Man Ray: Photographer, 1981
Some facts about Man Ray (1890-1976):
- born in 1890 to Russian Jewish immigrants living n South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. (Interestingly a number of the loan prints come from Israeli Museums)
- his name was Emmanuel Radnitzky ; he changed it to Man Ray later
- he initially worked as a commercial artist and technical illustrator for design companies in Manhattan
- age 23, he was very influenced by the European art on display at the Armory Show in 1913
- age 31, he moved to France in July 1921
- he considered himself a painter and took photographs to finance his painting;
- he became a distinguished photographer and photographed significant members of the art world and was also commissioned by Vogue and Vanity Fair to produce photo portraits of other distinguished members of the arts
- he was associated with - but on the fringes of - the Surrealist group in Paris during the 1920s and 30s (the exhibition includes a portrait of a young Salvador Dali)
- he moved back to the USA when the Germans invaded France and lived in Hollywood; in later years he moved back to Paris
- he was an innovator and created new ways of taking photographs
The exhibition brings together photographic portraits of cultural figures and friends including Marcel Duchamp, Berenice Abbott, Andre Breton, Jean Cocteau, Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, James Joyce, Erik Satie, Henri Matisse, Barbette, Igor Stravinsky, Yves Tanguy, Salvador Dali, Le Corbusier, Virginia Woolf, Aldous Huxley, Coco Chanel and Wallis Simpson. Also on show are portraits of his lovers Kiki de Montparnasse (Alice Prin) and Lee Miller, who was also his assistant, Ady Fidelin and his last muse and wife Juliet Browner.
Here are some images from the exhibition.
|The beginning of the exhibition|
It comprises one large gallery separated by a tall wall to create two long galleries (inward and outward)
On the left is the iconic solarised photograph of Lee Miller
Solarisation occurs when a photographic print is partially developed, then exposed to white light.
|separated by partitions for the different era and locations|
|The walls are dense with photographs - and some are very small|
In the centre is the Violon d'Ingres - a photograph of Kiki de Montparnasse which puns on a work by Ingres
|His portraits include a number of artists who were his peers - and who were also in Paris|
This is Georges Braque (1922) and Pablo Picasso (1922)
|Two Authors in 1922|
Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce
|Images of Kiki Montparnesse on the left. |
Schoenburg and Igor Stravinsky in the middle
|Solarised photographs: self portrait on the wall, images in magazines|
|Moving through the 1930s to the Hollywood yearsFollowing the outbreak of World War II, Man Ray left France|
for the USA and took up residence in Hollywood where he painted
and photographed film stars
This is one of those occasions when I definitely recommend you buy the illustrated catalogue - if for no other reason then you'll be able to see some of the images better in the book. Many of his prints are small and the book includes larger versions.
Besides all the images, the catalogue also includes:
- a preface by Terence Pepper, the curator of Photographs
- an introductory essay by Marina Warner, writer, art critic and Professor in the Department of Literature, Film and Theatre Studies at the University of Essex; and
- an extensive illustrated chronology of the life and career of Man Ray by Helen Trompeteler, Assistant Curator of Photographs at the National Portrait Gallery and author of Camera Portraits (her blog)
You can see the exhibition
- at the National Portrait Gallery, London from 7 February until 27 May 2013
- at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery from 22 June until 8 September 2013
- at the State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow from 14 October 2013 until 19 January 2014.
Advanced booking at the NPG is recommended - and you can see details and the ticket website page at the end
Man Ray Portraits From 7 February until 27 May 2013
Admission: Gift Aid admission £14; Concessions £13 / £12; Standard price admission £12.70; Concessions £11.80/£10.90