MAN RAY (1890-1976)
MAN RAY (1890-1976)
MAN RAY (1890-1976)
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MAN RAY (1890-1976)
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A Century of Art: The Gerald Fineberg Collection
MAN RAY (1890-1976)

Portrait de Kiki

MAN RAY (1890-1976)
Portrait de Kiki
signed 'Man Ray' (upper left); signed again, dated, titled and inscribed '"KIKI" Man Ray 1923 Paris (9)' (on the stretcher)
oil on canvas
24 1/8 x 18 in. (61.3 x 45.6 cm.)
Painted in 1923
Elsie Ray Siegler, New Jersey (sister of the artist).
Naomi and David Savage, Princeton (by descent from the above, 1958, then by descent).
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 26 January 2006.
"Grandada" in Time, vol. 81, 17 May 1963, p. 91 (illustrated).
Man Ray, Autoportrait, Paris, 1964, p. 145 (illustrated).
S. Alexandrian, Man Ray, Paris, 1973, p. 13 (illustrated in color).
Janus, Man Ray, Milan, 1973 (illustrated in color, fig. 27).
R. Passeron, Encyclopédie du surréalisme, Paris, 1975, p. 229.
R. Penrose, Man Ray, New York, 1975, pp. 105-107 and 205, no. 61 (illustrated, p. 106).
Man Ray, L’occhio e il suo doppio, dipinti, collages, disegni, invenzioni fotografiche, oggetti d’affezione, libri, cinema, exh. cat., Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome, 1975.
A. Schwarz, Man Ray: The Rigour of Imagination, London, 1977, pp. 58-59, 82 and 360, no. 53 (illustrated, p. 82).
Janus, Man Ray: Tutti gli scritti, Milan, 1981, p. 115 (illustrated).
G. Brown, Perpetual Motif: The Art of Man Ray, exh. cat., Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C., 1988, pp. 33-34, no. 24 (illustrated in color, p. 34).
B. Klüver and J. Martin, Kiki et Montparnasse, 1900-1930, Paris, 1989, p. 125 (illustrated, fig. 4).
Janus, Man Ray: Œuvres 1909-1972, Milan, 1990, no. 14 (illustrated in color).
Pasadena Art Institute, Retrospective Exhibition 1913-1944: Paintings, Drawings, Watercolors, Photographs by Man Ray, September-October 1944, no. 15.
Princeton University Art Museum, Man Ray: Drawings, Watercolors, Rayograms, Chess Sets, Books, Objects, March-April 1963, no. 9.
New York, Cordier and Ekstrom Gallery, Man Ray: Paintings Before 1950, April-May 1963.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Man Ray, October-December 1966, p. 55, no. 32.
Rotterdam, Museum Boymans van Beuningen; Paris, Musée national d'art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou and Humblebaek, Louisiana Museum, Man Ray, September 1971-April 1972, pp. 32 and 114, no. 9 (illustrated, p. 32).
London, The Institute of Contemporary Arts, Man Ray, April-June 1975, p. 4, no. 20.
Antwerp, Galerie Ronny Van de Velde, Man Ray, September-December 1994, no. 421 (illustrated).
New York, Di Donna Galleries, Enigma & Desire: Man Ray Paintings, October-December 2019, pp. 78 and 192 (illustrated in color, p. 79).
Further details
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.

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Lot Essay

I paint what cannot be photographed and I photograph what I do not wish to paint. Man Ray

Although celebrated for his photographic practice, it was in fact painting that first engaged Man Ray, né Emmanuel Radnitsky, a visionary par excellence. In New York City, where he grew up, Man Ray studied architecture, engineering, and mechanical drafting in high school, but ultimately wanted to become a painter. Visiting the Armory Show in 1913 gave him the courage to take on larger and more radical compositions, and he worked for the rest of the decade on his paintings while dreaming of success and of Europe and its avant-garde. After receiving support from his parents and $500 from the collector Fernand Howald, he set sail for France in July of 1921. Once there, Man Ray installed himself in a small room on rue de la Condamine next door to where his friend Marcel Duchamp was living. Thus began his Paris years.
Through Duchamp, Man Ray was introduced to the Dadaists, and although keen to continue painting, he began to photograph the artists and writers that comprised the city’s avant-garde, including André Breton, Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, and Henri Matisse, among countless others. The “excellence of these portraits” came from Man Ray’s “acute understanding of the way that a character resides in the shape of a head and the manner in which the events of a life are engraved on a face,” a sensitivity that underpins his Portrait de Kiki. Painted in 1923, Portrait de Kiki is an eloquent, intimate depiction of Alice Prin, Man Ray’s muse and lover, known and immortalized as Kiki de Montparnasse (R. Penrose, Man Ray, London, 1975, pp. 85 and 87).
Kiki and Man Ray met, one year earlier, in 1922 in Montparnasse, a district in the south of Paris and the heart of the city’s art world. According to Roland Penrose, Man Ray came to Kiki’s aid as she was caught up in a “spirited dispute” with a patron of a café for her refusal to wear a hat (ibid., p. 91). “Kiki,” remembered Man Ray, “looked around in a rage as if trying to find something to throw at the man” (Self Portrait, Boston, 1963, p. 140). He thought she moved “as gracefully as a gazelle” (quoted in M. Braude, Kiki Man Ray: Art, Love, and Rivalry in 1920s Paris, New York, 2022, p.34). Indeed, she was always uninhibited and fierce, working as a performer and modelling for artists including Chaim Soutine, Kees van Dongen, and Léonard-Tsuguharu Foujita, and she was also an artist herself. By July of the following year, the two were residing together on the rue Campagne Première, a now-iconic street where Duchamp, Eugène Atget, Louis Aragon, and Giorgio de Chirico, among many others, all lived and worked. It was here, at their apartment in the Hȏtel Istria, that Man Ray painted Kiki, a striking, almost feline depiction that was completed at the height of their relationship. Describing the painting, Penrose wrote, “Kiki sits demurely dressed in brown against a blue-grey background; flesh tones take on an overall ivory color with no modelling. Her provocative eyes and lips beneath a cloche of black hair are the same color as the background, giving a tender but enigmatic unity between painter, portrait and model” (op. cit., p. 107).
Portrait de Kiki is a rare painted portrait by Man Ray and one of only two executed in this style; the other, Portrait of Rrose Sélavy, which depicts Duchamp dressed in the guise of his alter-ego, was completed contemporaneously and is now lost. In his memoirs Man Ray recounted how Kiki initially refused to be photographed by him: while “a painter could modify the appearance of things,” she felt that a “photograph was too factual” (op. cit., p. 143). Kiki eventually acquiesced and became one of Man Ray’s most famous models, seen in works such as Le Violon d'Ingres, 1924, and Kiki Drinking, 1921. Unlike the many photographs in which she was posed to fulfill Man Ray’s vision, Portrait de Kiki instead presents an ode to Kiki herself. As André Breton noted, a “portrait of a loved one should not be only an image at which one smiles but also an oracle one questions” and indeed the painting reveals a soul inside (“The Visages of The Woman,” 1934 reprinted in Man Ray 1890-1976, exh. cat., Ronny Van de Velde, Antwerp, 1994, n. p.).
After its completion, Portrait de Kiki remained by descent within Man Ray’s family for over eight decades: he gifted the painting to Elsie Ray Siegler, his sister, before it passed to her daughter Naomi Siegler Savage. As a teenager, Savage attended photography classes taught by Berenice Abbot, who herself had once worked as Man Ray’s assistant. Savage later apprenticed with her famous uncle when he was living in Hollywood, California, and he became both a close friend and mentor.

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