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

The Reaper

Man Ray (1890-1976)
The Reaper
signed and dated 'Man Ray-14' (lower right)
oil on canvas
28 ¼ x 36 1/8 in. (71.7 x 91.8 cm.)
Painted in Ridgefield in 1914
The Daniel Gallery, New York (acquired from the artist).
Arthur Jerome Eddy, Chicago (acquired from the above, by 1920).
Katherine Kuh, Chicago (probably acquired from the estate of the above).
Man Ray, Paris (acquired from the above, by 1966).
Juliet Man Ray, Paris (by descent from the above); Estate sale, Sotheby's, London, 22 March 1995, lot 10.
Marek Lieberberg, Frankfurt (acquired at the above sale).
Francis M. Naumann Fine Art, LLC, New York (by 2001).
Acquired from the above by the present owner, February 2003.
C. Benincasa and R. Maria Siena, Man Ray: Les heures heureuses, Rome, 1975, p. 14 (illustrated in situ in the artist's studio).
K. Shinoyama, “Special Report: Man Ray’s Atelier,” Art Vivant, no. 15, 1985, p. 94 (illustrated in color in situ in the artist's studio).
C. Barnett, "Man Ray's Juliet," Art & Antiques, October 1988, p. 102 (illustrated in color in situ in the artist's studio).
F. Naumann, Man Ray and America: The New York and Ridgefield Years: 1907-1921, Ph.D. Diss., The City University of New York, 1988, vol. I, p. 137, and vol. II, p. 580, no. 236 (illustrated, vol. II, p. 771).
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Man Ray, October-December 1966, p. 54, no. 11.
Havana, XXIII Salon de Mayo, August 1967.
Frankfurter Kunstverein and Kunsthalle Basel, Man Ray: Inventionen und Interpretationen, October 1979-February 1980, p. 185, no. 4.
Washington, D.C., National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution; Los Angeles, The Museum of Contemporary Art; Houston, The Menil Collection and The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Perpetual Motif: The Art of Man Ray, December 1988-January 1990.
New York, Francis M. Naumann Fine Art, LLC, Man Ray in America: Paintings, Drawings, Sculpture, and Photographs: From New York/Ridgefield (1912-1921) and Hollywood Years (1949-1950), October 2001-January 2002, p. 34 (illustrated in color, pl. 18).
New Jersey, Montclair Art Museum; Athens, Georgia Museum of Art and Chicago, Terra Museum of American Art, Conversion to Modernism: The Early Work of Man Ray, February 2003-April 2004, p. 88 (illustrated in color, fig. 107).

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Sarah El-Tamer
Sarah El-Tamer

Lot Essay

Andrew Strauss and Timothy Baum of the Man Ray Expertise Committee have confirmed the authenticity of this work and that it will be included in the Catalogue of Paintings of Man Ray, currently in preparation.

Although widely known for his Paris-based photographic Surrealism, Man Ray always identified first and foremost as a painter. As if to emphasize this sentiment, his autobiography begins with the declaration, “My mother told me I made my first work on paper when I was three” (Self-Portrait, Boston, 1963, p.1). Man Ray recalls seeing the 1913 Armory Show and cites this as a turning point in his development. Inspired by the new modern aesthetic he observed at this seminal exhibition, Man Ray began to experiment with larger canvases and soon moved to Ridgefield, New Jersey into a wooden cabin tucked away in an orchard. His new home not only afforded him more space to paint, but also provided him with a wealth of new surroundings from which to derive inspiration. The Reaper epitomizes Man Ray’s fascination with the bucolic setting of his new home only a short distance away from the busy metropolis of New York.
The Reaper depicts a single figure, a farmer reaping in a field, tucked into a layered rural landscape. The composition of The Reaper presents itself much like a stage, the farmer stands on a proscenium of golden wheat between a curtain of craggy hills, set against a backdrop of river and mountains. Despite these layers, the canvas absolves any semblance of depth or perspective, echoing the Cubist and avant-garde influences Man Ray had discovered in New York a year prior. The colors of the canvas pulse with Kandinsky-esque vibrancy; hills are rendered in the full spectrum of the rainbow, inwards from red to violet. The field is comprised of panes of rich yellow and orange, with linear gashes separating the ground that has been culled from standing wheat. The river, ghostly white, is set against the mountains, illustrated in gradient modulations of pink and cobalt.
The image of the worker in the field can often be one rife with political undertones, but as Francis Naumann writes: “In light of Man Ray’s political convictions in this period, one could be easily tempted to interpret the laborer in this landscape as a symbol of the proletariat. With few exceptions, however, Man Ray carefully avoided making such bold political statements with his paintings. Instead, the figures in his landscapes of this period should be understood as relatively incidental details, no more important than other elements in the composition that are meant to facilitate our reading of the subject” (exh. cat., op. cit., 2003, p. 88). Man Ray’s eye for composition is what would set him apart as a notable and skilled photographer later in life—a quality first demonstrated in his early works of modernist painting.

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