12” x 9 1/2” paper
11” x 8 3/4” image
In 1934, James Thrall Soby, an adventurous young scholar and collector, published a gorgeous book of gravures after photographs by Man Ray, titled: "Photographs by Man Ray, 1920 Paris 1934". The book is very scarce! This photogravure was engraved and printed in France by the Néogravure company. It is printed on a high-quality, matte paper of a light ivory color, which shows a slight age darkening at the edges. This gravure is absolutely beautiful, with nuanced middle tones, luminous highlights, and of course no discernible half-tone screen.
Being printed recto-verso, there are two images on a single page size of 9.5" x 12". The first image (seen) is 8.8" x 11", a splendid example of a rayograph (solarized in the negative); the second image (on verso) is 8.8" x 11.3", another beautiful flower image.
Man Ray was a pioneering painter and photographer in the "dada", "surrealism", and abstract art movements of the 1920s and 1930s. After founding the New York City Dada movement with his friends Marcel Duchamp and Francis Picabia, Man Ray moved (1921) to Paris, where he became portrait photographer to the intellectual avant-garde. Although he was familiar with the work of "stieglitz" when he was a struggling young artist in New York, Man Ray did not take up photography until he reached Paris in the early 20's; and he did so, initially out of need rather than desire. Unable to sell his paintings, he turned to fashion photography and protraiture. He was extraordinarily successful in both areas. By 1921, Man Ray's work was causing something of a sensation due to his use of natural light, sharp clear contrast and informal poses. His work seemed extreme or avant-guarde at a time when Pictorialism was still the predominant style of photography in Europe.
Man Ray commercial success as a fashion and portraiture photographer allowed he the freedom to pursue experimental ideas related to his interest in the Dada art movement and later Surrealism. An intentional disregard for the bourgeois standards of art following WWI and a facination with chance, machines and conceptual ideas led to Man Ray's discovery of the "Rayograph," later to be called the photogram, and solarizations. Man Ray's contributions to the photographic avant-guarde of the 20's and 30's have been discounted by some as the non-art of the Dada movement or at best playful, unserious photographs influenced by the Surrealist movement. But to only look at the photographs of Man Ray misses the true significance of his diverse and active career. During his lifetime, Man Ray produced an usual variety of "artworks" ranging from paintings, mixed media sculpture, found objects or readymades, motion picture films, prose and photography. An artist of quick wit and a sincere disinterest in too much artistic self-absorbsion, Man Ray often lost interest in the lengthy discussions on aesthetics so common to his many artist friends.
Man Ray made several surrealist films in the1920s, including Anemic Cinema (1925-26) and L'Etoile de mer (Star of the Sea, 1928). During the 1940s he escaped occupied France for Hollywood but returned to Paris in 1950. Les champs delicieux (Delightful Fields, 1922) is an album of rayographs. Self Portrait (1963; repr. 1988) is his autobiography. NOTE: Man Ray (1890-1976),gelatin silver print of this image sold for $185,000 in October 2002, Cristie's New York, Rockefeller Center!