Man Ray's Artistic Process

Man Ray's Artistic Process

Using the artist's mannequin

In this series, we are able to see the closest relationship between Man Ray’s preferred medium, photography, with the final project, painting. Look carefully at these two works of art, comparing Man Ray's use of light, composition, and color. What details can you identify? Using an artist’s mannequin as the model, Man Ray transforms a typical teaching tool into the main character for the work of art. How does he do this? The mannequin is placed centrally in the composition, and is surrounded and supported by mathematical shapes. What do you think Man Ray's purpose is in doing this with the mannequin?

Often Man Ray’s photographs of objects are viewed only as preliminary experiments for the finished painting. This retrospective approach tends to classify his photographs from the mid-thirties simply as preparatory works for the later paintings, overlooking the original context of their creation and their significance for the Surrealist movement, which at the time was becoming increasingly drawn toward the object as a valid means of artistic expression.

Man Ray's Aline et Valcour

Man Ray consistently integrated novel concepts of play into his artistic practice, an approach evident in this and many other Shakespearean Equations paintings. Humanizing the object in the photograph is also a Surrealist technique. He humanizes the object in the painting by including a face in a case, suggesting the mannequin’s own ‘object.’ Compare Man Ray's King Lear to Aline et Valcour. What has Man Ray done to alter photograph to painting? What connections can you make between the two paintings? How has Man Ray synthesized his Surrealist beliefs into these works of art? 

In King Lear, Man Ray exaggerated and elongated the forms, creating an even more flat scene inspired from the photograph; however, in Aline et Valcour, we see that Man Ray seems to maintain the same proportions of the scene that are evident in the photograph. Nonetheless, warming the scene up with color choice, painting the mannequin in a tone reminiscent of armory, and suggesting a human narrative make the painting more of a surrealist depiction than a direct copy of the photograph.