Man Ray was born Emmanuel Radnitsky (also recorded
as Rabinovitch, Rudnitzky, Radenski) in Philadelphia of Russian
Jewish immigrant parents on August 27, 1890. With bitter memories
of teasing at school because of his foreign sounding name, he
became Man Ray in his early twenties.
At an early age he became adept at building,
repairing, inventing and sketching. Refusing a scholarship to
study architecture, he supported himself as a commercial artist
and draftsman, while studying art in night classes at various
schools in New York.
As a student, Man Ray was influenced by Alfred
Stieglitz, whose gallery he often visited, and Robert Henri, who
was his teacher. He had his first one-man painting exhibition
at the age of twenty-five. Exposed to Cubism at the 1913 Armory
Show, the artist soon incorporated those stylistic elements in
his work, met Marcel Duchamp, and bought his first camera. His
close friendship with Duchamp, spanning fifty-five years, influenced
their respective work and resulted in collaborative creative endeavors.
Encouraged by Duchamp, May Ray moved to Paris
in 1921, and with the exception of ten years in Hollywood during
World War II, he spent the rest of his life there.
He joined the Parisian Dada group and then the
Surrealists. Possessing an endlessly fertile imagination, Man
Ray continued to create new and startling artworks throughout
his long career. Always at the forefront of the avant garde, he
experimented with every conceivable medium, invented a number
of his own and influenced several generations of artists.
His major contributions fall into the categories
of painting, sculpture and photography, including film. His work
included readymades, assisted readymades, and assorted assemblages--often
more complex than they seemed--involving complicated puns and
hidden implications. His objects, he said, were always "designed
to amuse, annoy, bewilder, mystify, inspire reflection, but not
to arouse admiration for any technical excellence usually sought
or valued in objects classified as works of art." Much of his
work was developed for its shock value. Some of his objects, destroyed
by visitors to their exhibitions, or lost (like Cadeau
), were re-created later. During the six decades of his career,
Man Ray had innumerable one-man shows.
He died on the 18th of November 1976 in Paris
at age 86.