Man Ray Biography

Man Ray




Born Emmanuel Rudnitzky on August 27, 1890 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania visionary artist Man Ray was the son of Russian Jewish immigrants, Melach "Max", a tailor, and Manya "Minnie" Rudznitsky. The family moved to Brooklyn, New York when Ray was a young child, and from an early age he showed great artistic ability. After finishing high school in 1908, he followed his passion for art: he studied drawing with Robert Henri at the Ferrer Center, and frequented Alfred Stieglitz's photography studio and Gallery 291 - a continued inspiration throughout his own photography career.

Ray also found inspiration at the Armory Show of 1913, which brought European Modernism to American shores and featured the works of Pablo Picasso, Wassily Kandinsky and Marcel Duchamp, a fortuitous discovery that led him to Cubism and Abstraction. That same year, he moved to a burgeoning art colony in Ridgefield, New Jersey. 

In 1914 Ray held his first solo exhibition at the colony, and the following year he exhibited his first proto-Dadist piece, an assemblate piece titled "Self-Portrait. He became close to artists Marcel Duchamp and Francis Picabia, and together they became a leading figures in the Dada movement of New York. By 1918 Ray had nearly entirely abandoned painting and other traditional forms of art to explore Dadism - in essence, the anti-art movement. One of his famous works from this time was "The Gift," a sculpture that incorporated two found objects: tacks glued to the work surface of an iron.

In 1921, Ray moved to Paris to be a part of the artistic avant-garde, and he was invited into the circles of such luminaries as Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway. Ray became famous for his portraits of his artistic and literary associates and also developed a thriving career as a fashion photographer, taking pictures for such magazines as Vogue. These commercial endeavors supported his fine art efforts. A photographic innovator, Ray discovered a new way to create interesting images by accident in his darkroom around 1922. Called "Rayograms," these photos were made by placing and manipulating objects on pieces of photosensitive paper. He also explored the artistic possibilities of film, creating Surrealistic works such as the now-classic L'Etoile de Mer (1928). After Ray met photographer and sometime-muse Lee Miller, they experimented with a technique called the "Sabatier effect", or solarization, which adds a silvery, ghostly quality to the photographed image. Additionally, he created the first "light painting" using a torch to "draw" in the air while photographed with long-exposure, pre-dating Picasso's more well-known light paintings by fourteen years.

Ray spent much of the years between the World Wars as a photographer and established himself as a leading experimental artist whose work took on elements of Surrealism, Abstraction, Abstract Expressionism, and more. In 1925, he was included in the first Surrealist exhibition of Europe alongside Jean Arp, Max Ernst, Andre Masson, Joan Miro, and Pablo Picasso at Galerie Pierre in Paris.  

In 1940, Ray fled the war in Europe and moved to Los Angeles, California. He married model and dancer Juliet Browner the following year, in a unique double ceremony with artist Max Ernst and Dorothea Tanning, and in 1948 he was given a solo exhibition at the Copley Galleries in Beverly Hills. Returning to Paris with Juliet in 1951, Ray settled in St. germain-des-Pres and continued to explore different artistic media. He focused much of his energy on painting and sculpture. Branching out in a new direction, Ray began writing his memoir. The project took more than a decade to complete, and his autobiography, Self Portrait, was finally published in 1965. He died on November 18, 1976.

Sources for this biography include Wikipedia and