(American, 1890–1976), a prominent member of the French Surrealist circle, is celebrated for pioneering Modernist painting, film, and photography. Born Emmanuel Radnitzky in Philadelphia, Man Ray moved to Brooklyn, New York, with his family as a child, frequently visiting the city’s art museums in his youth. After graduating high school in 1908, he befriended artists such as Alfred Stieglitz
(American, 1864–1946), Marcel Duchamp
(French, 1887–1968), and Robert Henri
(American, 1865–1929), and worked alongside them to establish New York Dada during World War I. Man Ray took up photography in 1915, and co-founded the Societé Anonyme in 1921 with Duchamp and Katherine Dreier
(American, 1877–1952); it was seen as the first important collection of Modern Art in the United States. That same year, Man Ray moved to Paris, where he would reside as a member of the French Surrealist group until the beginning of World War II.
He began working frequently with collage, assemblage
, found objects, and experimental photography, creating “camera-less” photographic works he called Rayographs
by placing objects on light-sensitive paper. Using solarization and other photographic techniques involving the manipulation of light and the camera’s mechanical processes, Man Ray further pushed the boundaries of avant-garde photography. He also created Surrealist films, and worked as a skilled portrait photographer; his subjects included Pablo Picasso
(Spanish, 1881–1973), Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, and many other leading figures of the early 20th century. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, Man Ray’s work was well received in France, and he was regarded as a major figure in the international art world. He returned to the United States in 1940 to escape war in Europe, and settled in Los Angeles; always uncomfortable with his American identity, he returned to France in 1951. He spent the next few decades creating works, ranging from painting and drawing
to assemblage and photography, exhibiting around the world before his death in Paris, in 1976. Today, he is revered as one of the most important American Modernist artists, and as a groundbreaking practitioner of photography. His work is in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC, the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, and the Tate Gallery in London, among others.