Geographic Connection to Pennsylvania: Philadelphia, Philadelphia County
Despite his family's wishes, Man Ray pursued a career as a photographer. His surrealist photographs have transcended photography and influenced artists of all mediums.
Dadaist photographer and film director Man Ray was born in the Russian Jewish community in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1890. Man Ray began his artistic career when he moved to Brooklyn with his family at age seven. Eventually he would become involved in the Dada Movement and would find New York hostile to that movement. He had a great affinity for French art, connected to Duchamp, Cézanne, and others. Man Ray died in 1976.
Man Ray, whose real name was Emmanuel Radnitsky, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on August 27, 1890. Mystery surrounds many of the details of Man Ray's early days. He was the son of Melach, a tailor, and Manya Radnitsky. They were both Russian-Jewish immigrants. He adopted the pseudonym Man Ray around the age of 15 after being taunted by classmates because of his foreign-sounding name. In 1914, Ray married Donna Lecoeur (Adon Lacroix), a French poet. He officially abandoned his family name when he married, and 'Man Ray' was the name printed on the marriage certificate. The marriage ended in divorce in 1919. In 1946, Ray married Juliet Browner in Beverly Hills, California.
In 1897, Man Ray moved with his family to Brooklyn, New York, at the age of seven. For his birthday, Ray received his first box of crayons from a cousin. He spent much of his free time drawing and enjoying the freedom he found in creating colorful pictures. His artistic interests had been immediately sparked by his unconventional use of color at a young age. As Ray's new life began in Brooklyn, he grew more curious of his surroundings. His childhood interests stretched further beyond art and painting. Ray was also interested in the male and female anatomy, ballistics, and mathematics. At the age of fourteen he was sent to high school. He studied both mechanical and freehand drawing. His art instructor often embarrassed Ray because of the special attention the young artist received. He continued his studies and eventually gained an impressive perspective of art through his study of the fundamentals of engineering and architecture. During this crucial stage of growth in Ray's artistic and personal life, he developed his drawing ability and career in art. He also created a very personal style of painting, which he said was a break from the traditional 'aesthetic implications' of painting at the time. The rest of his studies often suffered due to Ray's devotion to drawing. However, upon finishing school he was awarded an architectural scholarship at a New York university. Much to the dismay of his parents and professors, he declined to accept the award and told family and friends, "I'm not interested in the exterior aspect. I'm interested in a building's inside. Give me space, light, and warmth, and I'll take care of the rest." Ray chose to take on odd jobs so he could continue painting as it pleased him. Ray served as an apprentice at an engraving studio, a draftsman in an advertising agency, and an illustrator. He began taking drawing classes at the Ferrer Modern School in Manhattan. The school, named after a Spanish anarchist, specialized in drawing and watercolor classes and functioned under libertarian ideals. It was during this time that Ray was introduced to Alfred Stieglitz and the world of photography, a medium in which Man Ray excelled at.
Man Ray was inspired by the artistic creations of Paul Cezanne and Pablo Picasso. In 1915, he began a lifelong friendship with Marcel Duchamp. That same year, Ray also held his first solo art exhibition at the Daniel Gallery. A year later Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, and Walter Arensberg founded the Society of Independent Artists. Ray and Duchamp worked together and published one issue of the magazine New York Dada. Introduced by Marcel Duchamp to the artistic medium known as Dadaism, Ray's name became synonymous with the art form, which sought to succeed all other genres in the art world. Eventually, Man Ray decided to take his artistic expressions abroad to Paris at the age of thirty. In Paris, he debuted his collection of experimental images created without a camera, which set dark models against a light-sensitive paper. Ray called the new works of art "Rayographs." These new interpretations left Ray with a new found fame and a wide range of admirers. He garnered international fame as a photographer, and he was admired to be one of the most well known figures of the Dada and Surrealist art movements. Ray was also the author of books, including an autobiography. Other novels showcasing his artworks and photographs were published posthumously. He also wrote screenplays, mainly in French.
While Ray never received any formal awards for his array of artistic creations throughout his lifetime, artists and art lovers in museums throughout the world continually enjoy his works. His most well known piece of object art is Gift, completed in 1921. While the original piece no longer exists, a re-creation of the intriguing piece is on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Ray's Observatory Time, showing a pair of floating lips, is his most remembered painting. His work has been shown alone and amongst other art exhibitions for decades.
Man Ray died on November 18, 1976, in Paris, France.
Self-Portrait. New York: Little Brown, 1963.
Opera Grafica. Torino: L. Anselmo, 1973.
Man Ray: the Photographic Image. New York: Barron's, 1977.
Photographs by Man Ray: 1920-1934. New York: Dover, 1980.
Man Ray: Photographs. New York: Thames & Hudson, 1982.
Objects of My Affection. New York: Thames & Hudson, 1987.
Man Ray: Great Modern Masters. New York: Cameo/Abrams, 1998.
Photo Credit: Carl Van Vechten. "Portrait of Man Ray, Paris." 16 Jun 1934. Photograph. Licensed under Public Domain. Cropped to 4x3, Filled background. Source: Library of Congress. Source: Online Resource. Paris.