The National Portrait Gallery hosts the first major exhibition of Man Ray’s highly-influential photographic portraits. With over one hundred pieces gathered from private collections and museums around the world, this dazzling array of work is absolutely stunning. Although Man Ray (1890-1976) was an artist who was interested in a variety of media - photography, film, printmaking, painting and sculpture - this exhibition focuses specifically upon his staggering number of photographs taken of world-renowned figures. From Picasso to Hemingway, Man Ray’s portraits are breathtaking.
Focusing on his career in America and Paris between the years 1916 and 1968, Man Ray’s work documents a lifetime spent in high-flying circles. From Dadaist artists to Hollywood superstars, Man Ray’s portraits really capture the essence of the individual, ensuring that their personality shines through. Such intimacy suggests the deeply personal connection that the artist clearly has with his subject.
Man Ray’s personalist approach is most evident in his series of photographs taken of his muses and lovers. The images of Kiki de Montparnasse, Lee Miller and Juliet Browner are the most sensual and evocative of the lot. Of course, his piece ‘Le Violon D’ingres’ 1924 - depicting a female nude (Kiki) with violin F-scrolls on her back - is extremely well-known and widely celebrated, and here such celebration seems more than justified.
The exhibition is comprised of five sections which represent a sequence of significant changes throughout Man Ray’s life - changes that subsequently shine through in the development of his artistic style. His experimentation with colour and light was revolutionary, particularly his invention of solarisation - used for the portrait of Lee Miller which is central to the exhibition. This gives the portrait an ethereal and dream-like quality, which is highly entrancing and outstandingly beautiful.
The Man Ray Portraits exhibition takes you on a journey through the artist’s highly-interesting life. It provides a little insight into this innovative and influential artist, although I’m sure there is much more to the man behind the camera.