Friday, March 21, 2014

Man Ray

La Femme et son Poisson (Pisces)
oil paint on canvas
60.0 x 73.0 cm
Tate Gallery, London, UK
-Fair use-

Pisces was based on an image from Les Mains libres (Free Hands), a suite of drawings that Man Ray published with poems by Paul Eluard in 1937. ‘In these drawings my hands are dreaming’, he later remarked. The woman lies alongside a fish to create what the artist described as ‘a contrasting of similar and different forms at the same time’. Man Ray strengthened the identification of woman and fish by choosing Pisces, the zodiac sign of paired fishes, as the English title. (Tate) The name of this painting derived from a short poem by Paul Eluard entitled 'La Femme et son Poisson'.

Man Ray (1890-1976) was an American modernist painter, photographer, draughtsman, sculptor, and film-maker, born Emmanuel Radnitsky to Russian-Jewish immigrant parents. The family adopted Ray as their surname in about 1911 and Man is an abbreviated version of his forename; he preferred to treat his pseudonym as a single unit, so it is customary to list him under M rather than R.

He was born in Philadelphia. He worked in an advertising office and then part-time as draughtsman for publishers of books on engineering, atlases and maps. By 1921 he was eager to experience his European influences first-hand. A timely sale of paintings to industrialists provided him with the funds for a trip to Paris. In Paris, he was an influential member of the international Dada and Surrealist circles of artists and writers, which included Tristan Tzara, Jean Cocteau, Max Ernst, Dali, Paul Eluard, Picasso and Andre Breton. Man Ray left Paris at the onset of World War II and spent the war years in Los Angeles, where he concentrated on painting and making objects. There and on his return in 1951 to Paris, where he lived for the rest of his life, he continued to pursue the many strands of his art that had already marked him as one of the century’s most innovative artists.

He produced major works in a variety of media but considered himself a painter above all. He was best known for his photography, and he was a renowned fashion and portrait photographer. Ray is also noted for his work with photograms, which he called "rayographs" in reference to himself.