Man Ray

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Man Ray, born on August 27, 1890, was a famous American visual artist. A major chunk of his career was spent in the vicinity of France. The movements he was a participant in were called Dada and Surrealist. However, his association to each was not one that was formal.

Man Ray was not the one to confine himself to one media. Yet, he was mainly known for painting. The masses also appreciated him for his many contributions in the field of photography. Interestingly, he was also recognized for his portraits in the world of fashion. Man Ray labeled these portraits as “rayographs”.

Man Ray was largely a private person. He avoided opening up to the public about his private life. Consequently, not much is known about his background and family life. In fact, he even did not admit that he had a name other than Man Ray.

Man Ray spent most of his early years in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was the eldest among his siblings. His family was comprised of Russian Jewish immigrants.  He had two sisters and a brother. The youngest of his siblings was born in 1897.

It happened in 1912 that Ray’s family changed their surname to Ray. The switch was made in reaction to racial discrimination.

Man Ray’s real name was Emmanuel. When he was young, he was often nick named as “Manny”. That explains why he later decided to call himself Man which eventually went on to have Ray attached with it.

Man Ray’s father worked in the textile industry. The business was small but enough for them to earn a living out of. From a very young age, he made it mandatory for his children to pitch in by designing clothes and creating innovative patterns for fabrics. However, Man Ray was never inclined to participate for he had other interests. Yet, he admits that the activity imprinted an important mark on his artistic aptitude. In fact, many of the machinery employed in designing and sewing clothes happen to appear in his work. This is a fact that has not been missed by the art critics who occasionally link his choice of subjects to his early childhood activities.

From the time that he was a young child, Man Ray demonstrated traces of a creative mind. He received his education Boys’ High School at Brooklyn. By 1904, he had attained a solid foundation in painting and using the brush. He was also known to really enjoy his frequent visits to the museum. In fact, it happened often that he was found in one. Over here he studied the Old Masters.

Post graduation, Ray received a scholarship for pursuing architecture. Not being tempted by the opportunity, he remained keen to pursue art instead. For the next couple of years, he stayed in his family home and worked laboriously on improving his artistic skills. Man Ray managed to get a steady flow of cash from being an artist. During the time he spent in New York, he was noticeably affected by the galleries of European contemporary works. Cubism was the theme governing many of his paintings.

In July 1921, Man Ray relocated to Paris, France. There, he met Alice Prin who he fell deeply in love with. She acted as his model for many of his works. In 1929, he began another love affair with Lee Miller who too was a photographer.

Man Ray returned to Montparnasse in 1951. Over here he published his autobiography in 1963 titled Self-Portrait. The book was republished in 1999.

On November 18, 1976, Man Ray died from a lung infection.


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