Solarised Portrait of Lee Miller. c. 1929, Man Ray b (c) Man Ray Trust-ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2012, courtesy The Penrose Collection, Image courtesy the Lee Miller Archives

Solarised Portrait of Lee Miller. c. 1929, Man Ray b (c) Man Ray Trust-ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2012, courtesy The Penrose Collection, Image courtesy the Lee Miller Archives

Until 17 May  2013, the London Portrait Gallery shows the Man Ray’s amazing photographic exhibition.

Man Ray Portraits is the first major museum retrospective of this innovative and influential artist’s photographic portraits. Focusing on his career in America and Paris between 1916 and 1968, the exhibition highlights Man Ray’s central position among the leading artists of the Dada and Surrealist movements and the significant range of contemporaries, celebrities, friends and lovers that he captured: from Marcel Duchamp and Pablo Picasso to Kiki de Montparnasse, Lee Miller and Catherine Deneuve.

Featuring over 150 vintage prints and key works from international museums and private collections, the exhibition also demonstrates Man Ray’s use of revolutionary photographic techniques and early experiments with colour, as well as surveying his published work in leading magazines such as Vogue and Vanity Fair.

From the curator’s words, Mr. Terence Pepper: One of the many challenges in assembling a major exhibition on such a well-known photographer and artist as Man Ray was how best to share new research and balance the introduction of great, but lesser known works, together with great prints of his most iconic works. Similarly his published work in magazines of the 1920s and 1930s such as Vanity Fair, Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar has been examined but I was fascinated to find that no survey to date had looked at in depth as his work published in the great French news weekly VU magazine.

What was most exciting was that copies of VU were still available for purchase in specialised book shops in Paris or through French ebay. Some of these have found their way into the National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition showcases and the accompanying catalogue.

VU was founded in 1928 under the editorship of Lucien Vogel and was the precursor to magazines such as Weekly Illustrated, Picture Post and Life. Like a newsreel in print, VU’s picture-crammed pages offered news reportage illustrated with dynamic and sometimes experimental photography and photomontage. VU would run to 638 issues until 5 June 1940, shortly before German troops entered Paris during the Second World War. Altogether, thirty-four of Man Ray’s credited images, including several covers, appeared in VU. The first, in April 1928, portrayed the evocative scene of a woman in a leather flying cap dwarfed by the luminous stone head of an ancient Buddha from Angkor Wat in Cambodia. This was in fact a breaking news story: the subject, a French reporter and adventuress known as Titaÿna, whose real name was Elisabeth Sauvy-Tisseyre, had stolen the Buddha’s head on her travels to Angkor Wat. Other issues saw Man Ray as a photographer of Industrial imagery as well as special Christmas themed photographs of a modern day family and an early publication of Le Baiser including Lee Miller’s lips with an unknown other appearing below a montage with mistletoe.

This photograph would inspire his 1959 pop art work that recently set an auction record of over a million dollars. Other issues of Vu included full page reproductions of his 1936 sitting with the future Duchess of Windsor ( a sensational exclusive showing the true face of Mrs Simpson December 1936) as well as uncredited cover photograph of the cross-dressing Texan aerialist Barbette preparing his make-up in a 1930 issue (see top picture) .

I would love to hear from other enthusiasts who may have come across other published and credited Man Ray photographs that are generally not well-known.


Man Ray Portraits

National Portrait Gallery

St.Martin’s Pl, WC2H 0HE

London | United Kingdom

until May 17, 2013

Tel. (+44) 20 7306 0055




Born Emmanuel Radnitzky, Man Ray grew up in America but spent the greater part of his life as an migr in Paris. Working in several media, Man Ray’s art includes painting, sculpture, collage, constructed objects and photography. Beginning in 1921, he received hundreds of commissions for portraits and commercial work which were featured in publications such as Vogue, Vu, Bazaar and Vanity Fair. He was an American, but worked in Paris from 1921 to 1940. His assistants included Berenice Abbott and Lee Miller, and Duchamp, Stieglitz, Picasso and Dali were among his colleagues. A member of the Dada art movement and the only American member of the Paris Surrealist movement, Man Ray considered himself an artist and thought of photography as a medium of artistic expression when used for more than reproduction. In describing his work, Man Ray once said, “I paint what can not be photographed. I photograph what I do not wish to paint.”