Man Ray (1890-1976)
Man Ray (1890-1976)


Man Ray (1890-1976)
signed and dated 'Man Ray 1919' (lower left)
aerograph and pencil on paper
image: 20 x 16 1/8 in. (50.8 x 41 cm.); oval
sheet: 21 7/8 x 17½ in. (55.5 x 44.5 cm.)
Executed in 1919
William N. Copley, New York, by whom acquired directly from the artist in 1959; his sale, Sotheby's, New York, 5 November 1979, lot 29.
Galerie Tarica, Paris, by whom acquired at the above sale.
Hubertus Wald, Hamburg, by whom acquired from the above on 2 February 1980.
Man Ray, Autoportrait, Paris, 1964, p. 81 (illustrated).
Exh. cat., Man Ray, Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam & Musée national d'Art moderne, Paris, 1971, no. 89.
R. Penrose, Man Ray, London, 1975, no. 24, p. 48 (illustrated p. 51).
A. Schwartz, Man Ray, The Rigour of Imagination, London, 1977, no. 32, pp. 33, 50 & 360 (illustrated p. 42).
Janus, ed., Man Ray, Tutti gli scritti, Milan, 1981, p. 55 (illustrated).
New York, The Daniel Gallery, Man Ray: An exhibition of selected drawings and paintings accomplished during the period 1913-19, 1919, no. 7.
Beverly Hills, The Copley Galleries, Man Ray, 1948-1949, no. 49.
Dusseldorf, Kunstverein für die Rheinländer und Westfalen, Dada, September - October 1958, no. 157.
Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, Exposition Man Ray, May - July 1962.
Los Angeles, County Museum of Art, Man Ray, 1966, no. 28 (illustrated p. 83).
Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1968 (on loan).
New York, Cordier & Ekstrom, Man Ray, A Selection of Paintings, 1970 (illustrated).
New York, Cultural Center, Man Ray: inventor/painter/poet, December 1974 - March 1975.
London, The Institute of Contemporary Arts, Man Ray, 1975, no. 194. Rome, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Man Ray, l'occhio e il suo doppio, dipinti, collages, disegni, invensioni fotografiche, ogetti de'affezione, libri, cinema, 1975, no. 41 (illustrated).
Paris, Musée national d'art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Man Ray, December 1981 - May 1982, no. 21.
Berlin, Akademie der Künste, Androgyn, February - April 1987 . Hamburg, Kunsthalle, Sammlung Wald, September - November 2003.

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Adrienne Dumas
Adrienne Dumas

Lot Essay

Man Ray's extraordinarily innovative and iconoclastic approach to art is perfectly encapsulated in Hermaphrodite. Executed in 1919, Hermaphrodite is one of a small number of important 'aerographs' the artist produced between 1917 and 1919. As one of Man Ray's early 'excursions into the unknown', the use of the mechanistic aerograph, or airbrush, marks a pivotal moment in his artistic development (Man Ray, Self Portrait, London, 1988, p. 66). Man Ray himself remarked that, 'this was a period of reaction to sensuous painting, leading into the dada spirit. If there was anything shocking to do, I wanted to be the first' (Man Ray, quoted in F. M. Naumann, Conversion to Modernism: the Early Work of Man Ray, London, 2003, p. 204).
Using stencils to create his aerographs, Man Ray employed a sculpture, also entitled Hermaphrodite and made in 1919, as the outline for the present picture's forms. Suspended in an oval, the twisting, abstracted figure composed of simplified shapes subverts the traditional genre of the nude in a manner reminiscent of George de Chirico's disquieting manichino paintings. The sexually ambiguous and indeterminate figure of the alchemical hermaphrodite appealed to both Dada and Surrealist artists as a mysterious figure capable of representing totality and sexual synthesis. The year before Hermaphrodite was executed, Alberto Savinio - de Chirico's brother - published his first book, Hermaphrodito and Francis Picabia published his Poèmes et dessins de la fille née sans mère which included Hermaphroditism. These works may have provided the inspiration for Man Ray's sculpture and the present aerograph.
Man Ray had frequently used airbrushes to lay down large areas of colour in his part-time job as a commercial designer, and this industrial tool suggested to him an exciting way of both liberating his own art from traditional pictorial techniques and illustrating the then-emergent machine aesthetic (see ibid., p. 187). The precise contours and linearity of the forms in Hermaphrodite, characteristic of those effects produced by the airbrush, attest to Man Ray's concern to depersonalise the work of art and to 'express an idea almost photographically' (Man Ray, quoted in ibid., p. 206) Indeed, the luminosity, subtle tonal gradations and ethereal quality of this monochromatic work foreshadow the more abstract effects Man Ray later achieved in his pioneering photographic 'rayographs' and 'solarisations'. As the artist recalled, 'When I discovered the airbrush, it was a revelation - it was wonderful to be able to paint a picture without touching the canvas; this was a pure cerebral activity. It was also like painting in 3-D... another thing I liked about it was the spontaneous character of the composition. The effect was obtained instantly and you couldn't correct it afterwards; it was like shooting with a gun, you either hit the mark or you don't! When I was to think of it, it was almost automatic painting. I was already trying to get away from painting in the traditional manner.' (Man Ray, quoted in A. Schwatz, May Ray: The Rigour of the Imagination, London, 1977, p. 39).

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