MAN RAY (1890–1976)
MAN RAY (1890–1976)
MAN RAY (1890–1976)
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MAN RAY (1890–1976)
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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more Depth of Field: The Alan and Dorothy Press Collection
MAN RAY (1890-1976)

Untitled (Solarized Nude, Paris), 1929

MAN RAY (1890-1976)
Untitled (Solarized Nude, Paris), 1929
signed in ink (recto); variously annotated and numbered in pencil (verso)
gelatin silver print
image/sheet: 11 1/4 x 8 7/8 in. (28.5 x 22.5 cm.)
Private collection, Europe
Anon. sale; Christie's, New York, 18 April 2001, lot 217
Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the late owner, 2006
Man Ray, Man Ray: Photographs 1920-1934, James Thrall Soby, Hartford, 1934, pl. 33.
Exhibition catalogue, Man Ray, L'Immagine Fotografica, La Biennale di Venezia, Venezia, 1977, pl. 117.
Man Ray, Photographs by Man Ray: 105 Works, 1920-1934, Dover Publications, New York, 1979, p. 33.
Man Ray, Man Ray: 1890-1976, Taco, Berlin, 1989, p. 29.
Exhibition catalogue, Man Ray: La Photographie à L'Envers, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, 1998, p. 152.
Exhibition catalogue, Man Ray: Photography and its Double, Laurence King, London, 1998, p. 152.
Exhibition catalogue, Photographies de Man Ray, Tokyo, 2002, pl. 131, p. 105 (uncropped variant).
Exhibition catalogue, Man Ray and L. Fritz Gruber: Years of Friendship 1956-1976, Steidl Thames & Hudson, Göttingen, 2008, p. 125.
Exhibition catalogue, Man Ray, Skira, 2011, pl. 133, p. 134 (uncropped variant).
Special notice
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. This is such a lot.

Brought to you by

Vanessa Fusco
Vanessa Fusco Head of Department, Impressionist & Modern Art, New York

Lot Essay

A spectral presence – Man Ray’s Solarized Nude
Philippe Garner

Man Ray’s spectral 1929 Solarized Nude well represents his singular vision, reminding us of the multiple ways in which he radically reinvented the medium of photography as a tool of artistic expression in the inter-war years.

Man Ray saw the potential of photography to function not just as a means of documenting the realities of the material world but rather as a magician’s prism through which fragments of a supposed reality could be metamorphosed into a manifestation of the artist’s deepest psyche and imagination. His genius found pictorial form in compelling images characterized by their persistent ability to challenge our perceptions and to strike an insistent and inexplicable chord. Man Ray’s Solarized Nude is a masterful demonstration of his ever-inventive mutations between material fact and abstracted idea, between the tangible and the poetic.

The present dramatic subject – the back of a voluptuous half-figure nude, her head turned to her left – calls to mind Man Ray’s celebrated Violon d’Ingres of 1924. Solarized Nude, notwithstanding its own distinct characteristics, might justifiably be considered a deliberate and playful echo of the Violon d’Ingres, itself a willful echo of Ingres’s celebrated odalisque. Man Ray’s luminous nude from 1929 takes its place among the emblematic nudes that constitute such an important aspect of the artist’s oeuvre. As his friend Roland Penrose reminds us, when reflecting on the media and themes that inspired Man Ray, ‘…the sources most rich in poetic stimulus, direct or indirect, were the women he loved. …the grace, purity and compelling magic of the female presence is made vivid and permanent by his skill.’ (Man Ray, London, 1971, p. 99) His muses were central to his creativity.

The nude, or indeed isolated body details – perhaps simply an eye, or a mouth – were explored obsessively by Man Ray as metaphors for the mysteries of the erotic within the subconscious. In his autobiography, Man Ray touches tellingly, if obliquely, and not without a characteristic note of irony, on this theme of the machinations of the unconscious, giving context to his Solarized Nude. Discussing the evolution of Dada and Surrealism, he explains: ‘What Dada had accomplished was purely negative, the poems and paintings were illogical, irreverent, and irrelevant To continue the agenda, a more constructive agenda was needed…. And Breton came up with Surrealism…. Dada did not die;’ he continues, ‘it was simply transformed…. Breton took matters in hand, publishing his first Surrealist manifesto. The constructive element of this declaration was its advocacy of new sources for inspiration in writing and the other arts, such as the subconscious: automatic, that is, not logically, controlled expression, and the dream world. Breton had visited Freud in Vienna a few years earlier, had kept up a correspondence with him, and had found in psychology a fertile field for his ideas.’ (Self Portrait, Boston, 1988 edition, p. 214)

“I have been experimenting with similar “accidents”… and have now learned how to produce them at will.” - Man Ray

This account underscores Man Ray’s perspective on the artist as a conduit for inexplicable forces, valuing the power of intuition and of chance. The present nude engages the viewer with its strange halo effects, other-worldly aura, and mysterious tonal reversals that Man Ray achieved through the darkroom wizardry of solarization. How appropriate that, in Man Ray’s words, quoted by his biographer Neil Baldwin, ‘This process was the result of an accident.’ (Man Ray, London edition, 1989, p. 158) Man Ray’s brilliance was in seeing the expressive possibilities of the consequences of this accident that occurred when a short burst of light disrupted the tonal values of a partially processed image. ‘I have been experimenting with similar “accidents”.’ he added, ‘and have now learned how to produce them at will.’

Solarization became a precious addition to Man Ray’s technical repertoire at the close of the 1920s and into the 1930s, stimulating a new line of creative enquiry and generating notable works, foremost among them the present Solarized Nude. The status of this image within his oeuvre was established in 1934 by its selection for inclusion in the landmark anthology Man Ray Photographs 1920–1934 published by his champion, the American collector and patron James Thrall Soby, whose own print of the image was gifted to the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

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