5 Weird and Wonderful Facts About Man Ray

Man Ray is an undeniable icon of the 20th century art world, his seductive, doleful artworks perfectly captured the absurdity of the postwar era. Often described as the chameleon of the art world, Man Ray possessed an unparalleled ability to adapt to whatever medium he chose, mastering painting, photography, sculpture, printmaking, filmmaking and even poetry.

His quirky persona and innate talent saw him quickly accepted into exclusive social circles, dipping his pen/brush/photographic paper into a range of styles including Cubism, Futurism, Surrealism and Dada. 

On what would have been his 130th birthday, here are five things to know about the dad of Dada…


1. Man Ray wasn’t actually his real name.

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Man Ray, Ingres’ Violin, 1924

The name itself is surreal, fooling many into thinking the artist was literally born to be a part of this movement. Ray’s name change, however, isn’t entirely to rebrand himself as an artist, but to avoid the rampant threat of anti-semitism. Born into a Russian-Jewish immigrant family as Emmanuel Radnitzky, his family decided it would be safer if the artist were to go by ‘Emmanuel Ray.’ The first name ‘Man’ was the result of his nickname, ‘Manny’ being shortened to ‘Man’, and not a heteronormative proclaimation of his gender.

2. He made camera-less photographs

This discovery actually happened by accident while exploring how to take photos without a camera (as you do). Ray would place objects over light-sensitive paper and hold them up to light which would result in strange renderings of figures. These figures were then developed into his self-titled ‘Rayographs’.

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Rayograph (The Kiss) 1922

3. One of his most famous works was a response to his breakup

After a messy breakup with his lover, Lee Miller, Ray channelled his pain into art, creating the piece Indestructible Object in 1923. When exhibiting the artwork, it was accompanied with the following instructions: “Cut out the eye from a photograph of one who has been loved but is seen no more. Attach the eye to the pendulum of a metronome and regulate the weight to suit the tempo desired. Keep going to the limit of endurance. With a hammer well-aimed, try to destroy the whole at a single blow.” 

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Man Ray, Indestructible Object, 1923

4. He worked in fashion


Man Ray, Glass Tears, 1932

The artist’s works captured the flaneurs and flaneuses of 1920s and 30s Paris, before being printed in major publications such as Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, Vanity Fair and Vu. The sinuous curves of the female form, contrasted with the sharp angles of inanimate objects transformed the fashion world forever. Ray’s unique vision was quickly picked up by major couturiers including Chanel and Schiaparelli, even if he originally agreed to it to finance his artist materials…

5. He abandoned painting for Dada

Dada was a radical anti-art movement established by emerging European artists who were left disillusioned after the catastrophe of World War I. Dada sought to question every aspect of society, criticising the bourgeoisie, rightwing politics and tradition, revolutionising art and reestablishing its value. Colluding with fellow Dada artist, Marcel Duchamp, the artists created ‘readymades’ which consisted of found objects presented as art. Duchamp claimed that by choosing an object for an artistic purpose was itself a creative act, and that artwork is only an artwork when defined as such by the artist…


The Man (Ray) Himself 

Inspired by Man Ray Selection!


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