Man Ray was born in 1890 in South Philadelphia as Emmanuel Radnitzky, into a family of Russian Jewish immigrants. In 1912, Ray’s family changed their second name to “Ray” because of the discrimination prevalent at the time. Ray’s father ran a small tailoring business and wanted his children to assist him from an early age. Ray wanted to disassociate himself from his family background, even if tailoring still left a mark on his art. In fact, lot’s of materials related to tailoring appear in almost all his work.

Ray was an American visual artist who spent most of his career in France. He was a contributor to the “Dada” and “Surrealist” movement and he produced works in a variety of media. He considered himself a painter above all, even though he was best known for his photography. He is also known for his work with photograms, which he called “Rayographs” after himself.

While he lived in New York, he was influenced by galleries of European contemporary works. His early works display facets of cubism.

In 1915, Ray had his first solo of drawings and paintings. The following year, his first photo-Dada was exhibited. It was an assemblage titled Self-Portrait. However, he produced his first significant photos in 1918. During that year, Ray abandoned conventional painting to involve himself with Dada. he started making objects and develop unique mechanical and photographic methods of making images. Two year later, Ray helped Duchamp make the Rotary Glass Plates, which was one of the first examples of kinetic art. it was made of glass plates turned by a motor. Ray, Duchamp and Katherine Dreier founded the “Société Anonyme” in 1920. It was the first museum of modern art in the U.S. That same year, Ray and Duchamp published an issue of “new York Dada”.

In July 1921, he went to live in Paris, where he met and fell in love with Kiki de Montparnasse (Alice Prin), an artists model. She became subject of some of Ray’s most famous work. For the next twenty years, he was a distinguished photographer. In 1923, he met his firs wife, a Belgian poet called Adon Lacroix. They got married a year later, to then separate in 1919 and divorce in 1937.

Ray returned to the U.S due to the Second World War, he lived in Los Angeles from 1940 to 1951. In 1946 Ray married Juliet Browner. Two year later, Ray had a solo exhibition at the Copley Galleries in Beverly Hills.

In 1963, he published his autobiography called “Self-Portrait”, then republished in 1999. In 1974, Ray received the Royal Photographic Society’s Progress Medal and Honorary Fellowship. In 1999, “ART-news” magazine named Man Ray one of the 25 most influential artists of the 20th century. In march 2013, Ray’s photo “Noire et Blanche” (which was taken in 1926) was featured in the United States Postal Service’s Modern Art in America series of stamps.

Man Ray died in Paris on November 18, 1976 from a lung infection.

Man Ray’s most popular publications:

  • (1922). Champs délicieux: album de photographies;
  • (1926). Revolving doors, 1916–1917: 10 planches;
  • (1934). Man Ray: photographs, 1920–1934;
  • (1935). Facile;
  • (1937). La photographie n’est pas l’art;
  • (1937). Les mains libres: dessins;
  • (1948). Alphabet for adults;
  • (1963). Self portrait;
  • (1963). Portraits;


All the pictures in this page are by Man Ray. All rights reserved to the author.

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