An influential artist and photographer during the 20th Century, Man Ray set the tone as an artistic icon. His work inspired Andy Warhol and some other experimental artists during the 1960s and 1970s. The photographic legacy he left behind remains important to this day. During his most active periods of creation, he contributed to the Dada Movement and Surrealist art.
Born in Philadelphia in August of 1890, Emmanuel Radnitzky moved with his parents to New York City as a child. His parents had emigrated to the United States from Russia, where anti-Semitism created great hardship for many Jewish families in the late 1800s. His mother worked as a seamstress, and his father developed a tailoring business in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood.
Man Ray initially studied to pursue a career in architecture and engineering. However, he ultimately decided to focus on art. Ray graduated from high school in 1908 and accepted occasional commercial art assignments in New York City while studying art independently and living with his parents. In 1912, he joined the Ferrer School, an avant-garde art colony founded under the ideas of the late anarchist Fernando Ferrer. He began using the name “Man Ray” during his early 20s.
His Early Career
By 1915, Man Ray found himself attracted to Dadaism. He collaborated on several projects with French artist Marcel Duchamp. In 1921, he emigrated to Paris. His work reflected the influences of many Dadaist and Surrealist artists there.
He developed a process for filming images without a camera he called “Rayographs.” He also gained acclaim for painting, sculpture, and photography. During the 1920s and 1930s, he produced surrealist art photos, like Noire et Blanche(1926) and Larmes (1930). He frequently photographed celebrities and intellectuals. His friends and acquaintances in Paris included Salvador Dali, Lee Miller, Francis Picabia, and Gertrude Stein.
His Final Years
In 1940, the German occupation of France during WWII forced Man Ray to flee Paris. He resided in Los Angeles during the next 11 years, only returning to Paris in 1951. In 1946, he married dancer Juliet Browner. He reportedly felt misunderstood by many of his U.S. critics.
In 1963, he published his autobiography, Self-Portrait. His work gradually achieved notoriety. He passed away in 1976. His widow donated some of his works to museums.
Ever since his death, his art inspired and continues to inspire artists all over the world. Man Ray artistry is taught in art classes all over the world, and his work is displayed in museums across the globe.