Solarised Portrait of Lee Miller, c.1929 by Man Ray. Image courtesy the Lee Miller Archives. Helen Tamiris, 1929 by Man Ray © Centre Pompidou. Le Violon d’Ingres, 1924 by Man Ray © Copy Photograph Rheinisches Bildarchiv Köln. All photographs © Man Ray Trust/ADAGP
The National Portrait Gallery is holding a major exhibition of Man Ray’s Portraits. It shows 150 vintage prints taken between 1916 and 1968, many of which have never been exhibited in the UK.
The exhibition explores his work in New York, from 1916 to 1920, his time in Hollywood during the 1940s, up to his final post-war years in Paris.
Initially a painter, Man Ray (born Michael Emmanuel Radnitzky) started photography in an effort to reproduce his works, before becoming a portrait photographer. He later returned to painting during his Hollywood years.
Portraits of well-known artists, film figures and models of his era form the major part of the exhibition and truly transport the viewer back in time. From his first Dada photographs with Marcel Duchamp to those of Picasso, James Joyce, Hemingway, Matisse, Cocteau, Dali, and Ava Gardner, Man Ray expressed himself and his art through powerful portraits.
Intimate portraits of his friends, lovers and social circle are also included in the exhibition, with portraits of Lee Miller, Juliet Browner and Kiki de Montparnasse.
His photograph Barbette (1926) features aerialist Vander Clyde, who became famous for his performance of a high-wire act as “Barbette”. The portrait shows Barbette’s notable androgyny with an image of him during his high-wire act in the background.
Some of his most famous works are also on show, such as Le Violon d’Ingres (1924), where Man Ray played at abstracting the body of Kiki, and his Solarized Portrait of Lee Miller (1929), his lover and collaborator at the time.
One of his last significant portraits was that of iconic actress Catherine Deneuve, which, through its composition, references his work throughout the years, from early photographs to later paintings. Photographed in his studio, Catherine Deneuve is surrounded by objects made by Man Ray, including a chessboard and a jewellery box disguised as a book.
Address: National Portrait Gallery, St.Martin’s Pl, London WC2H 0HE