Today is the birthday of avant-garde photographer and painter who came into this world as Emmanuel Radnitzky, and left as Man Ray. The renowned Surrealist and Dada figure would turn 122 if he were magically still alive today.

Ray was born in 1890 to a Russian-Jewish immigrant family in Philadelphia, spending most of his childhood in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn. He began demonstrating an interest in art in high school when he began learning about freehand drawing and drafting. But when the artist began his professional career in New York City he hid most details about his personal life, preferring the name Man Ray (a shortened version of Emmanuel Radnitzky).

The mysterious artist attended a few classes at the National Academy of Design and the Arts Students League before enrolling in the Ferrer School in the fall of 1912. Influenced by the works shown at Manhattan's Armory Show in the following year and the surge of contemporary European artists in the states, Ray had his first solo show of paintings in drawings in 1915. Soon after, he produced his first Dada work, an assemblage titled "Self-Portrait," and his first widely-received photographs. At this point, he had already solidified a friendship with fellow artist and readymade fiend, Marcel Duchamp, with whom Ray collaborated on a number of projects including "Rotary Glass Plates," one of the earliest examples of kinetic art, and a 1920 issue of New York Dada.

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Man Ray (R) with Salvador Dali.


Like many of the modern artist of the early 19th century, Ray spent a significant portion of his career in Europe, honing his photography in places like Paris and Montparnasse, France. There he captured shots of James Joyce and Gertrude Stein, and participated in Surrealist exhibitions with Joan Miro, Max Ernst and Pablo Picasso. He also met Lee Miller, his photography assistant and lover, who helped Ray to establish a new technique of solarization and a unique version of photograms that he called "rayographs."

Ray returned to the US after WWII broke out, moving to Los Angeles in 1940. There he met Juliet Browner, an American dancer with Romanian-Jewish heritage who became Mrs. Man Ray six years later. The two lived together until Ray's death in 1976 and were buried together after Browner's death in 1991, with Ray resting under the epitaph "unconcerned, but not indifferent" and Browner under "together again."

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Rose Sélavy (Marcel Duchamp). 1921. Photograph by Man Ray. Art Direction by Marcel Duchamp. Silver print. 5-7/8" x 3"-7/8". Philadelphia Museum of Art.


In honor of Mr. Radnitzky's birthday, check out the slideshow below of memorable quotes from the modernist great. Let us know what you think in the comments section.

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  • "Originals Graphic Multiples", circa 1968; published in "Objets de Mon Affection", 1983.

  • Interview in Camera (Paris; reprinted in "Man Ray: Photographer", ed. by Philippe Sers, 1981).

  • "Photography can be art"

  • Oct. 2, 1966 (Handwritten and signed note) [ 9 Days of Photokina "Man Ray on the Future!" An Interview by Ed Hirsch & Ben Zar, Popular Photography, January 1967, Volume 60, No. 1, p. 98]

  • Undated interview, circa 1970s, published in Man Ray: Photographer, 1981.

  • 1948 essay, "To Be Continued, Unnoticed"

  • Julien Levy exhibition catalog, April 1945.

"Man Ray | Lee Miller: Partners in Surrealism" will show at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco until October 14, 2012.

See a slideshow of the work from the exhibition below. Note that some of the slides contain images of nudes, so they are NSFW:

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  • Lee Miller (1907-1977) Nude Bent Forward, c. 1930 Digital color coupler print 7 7/8 x 6 7/8 in. (20 x 17.5 cm) Lee Miller Archives, Sussex, England Photograph by Lee Miller © Lee Miller Archives, England 2011. All rights reserved. http://www.leemiller.co.uk

  • Eileen Tweedy (life dates still to come)Man Ray and Lee Miller at the Opening of "Man Ray, Inventor, Painter, Poet" Exhibition at ICA, London, Curated by Roland Penrose, 1975Gelatin silver print6 1/4 x 8 1/4 in. (15.9 x 20.9 cm)The Roland Penrose Collection, England© Courtesy of The Penrose Collection. All rights reserved

  • Attributed to Man Ray (1890-1976)Fairground, c. 1930Vintage postcard print3 1/2 x 4 5/8 in. (9 x 11.9 cm)The Roland Penrose Collection, England

  • Man Ray (1890-1976)Shadow Patterns on Lee Miller's Torso, c.1930Gelatin silver print12 x 9 in. (30.5 x 22.8 cm)

  • Lee Miller (1907-1977) Self Portrait, variant on Lee Miller par Lee Miller, c.1930 Gelatin silver print 9 1/8 x 6 7/8 in. (23.3 x 17.4 cm) Lee Miller Archives, Sussex, England Photograph by Lee Miller © Lee Miller Archives, England 2011. All rights reserved. http://www.leemiller.co.uk

  • Lee Miller (1907-1977) Portrait of Man Ray, 1931 Gelatin silver print 9 1/8 x 6 7/8 in. (23.3 x 17.5 cm) Lee Miller Archives, Sussex, England Photograph by Lee Miller © Lee Miller Archives, England 2011. All rights reserved. http://www.leemiller.co.uk

  • Man Ray (1890-1976)A l'heure de l'observatoire - les amoureux (Observatory Time - The Lovers), c. 1931, color photographof 1964, after the original oil paintingColor photograph19 5/8 x 48 3/4 in. (50 x 124 cm)The Israel Museum, Jerusalem © 2011 Man Ray Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris/ Photo © The Israel Museum by Avshalom Avital

  • Man Ray Lee Miller's Eye, 1932Vintage gelatin silver print with inscription in ink on versoLee Miller Archive, England© 2010 Man Ray Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY / ADAGP, Paris

  • Man Ray (1890 - 1976)Lee Miller, ca. 1930Solarized vintage gelatin silver print23.3 x 18.8 cm.©The Artists Estate 2010. All rights reserved. The Penrose Collection.

  • Man RayPortrait of Lee Miller - Flying Head, c. 1930ParisVintage gelatin silver printLee Miller Archives, England© 2010 Man Ray Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY / ADAGP, Paris

  • Man Ray (1890-1976)Le Logis de l'artiste (The Artist's Home), c. 1931Oil on canvas27 7/8 x 20 1/2 in. (71 x 52 cm)The Roland Penrose Collection, England© 2010 Man Ray Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris/Courtesy of The Penrose Collection. All rights reserved

  • Lee Miller (1907-1977) Self Portrait, c.1930 Gelatin silver print 3 ½ x 2 1/8 in. (9.0 x 5.2 cm) Lee Miller Archives, Sussex, England Photograph by Lee Miller © Lee Miller Archives, England 2011. All rights reserved. http://www.leemiller.co.uk

  • Man Ray (1890-1976)Neck, c. 1930Gelatin silver print9 1/8 x 7 in. (23 x 17.8 cm)The Roland Penrose Collection, England© 2010 Man Ray Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris/Courtesy of The Penrose Collection. All rights reserved

  • Man Ray (1890-1976)Indestructible Object, originally made 1928, destroyed Paris 1957, this replica 1959Metronome with gelatin silver print of Lee Miller's eye9 1/8 x 4 1/4 x 4 1/4 in. (23 x 11 x 11 cm)The Roland Penrose Collection, England© 2010 Man Ray Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris/Courtesy of The Penrose Collection. All rights reserved

  • Lee Miller (1907-1977)Tania Ramm and Bell Jar, Variant on Hommage à D.A.F. de Sade, c. 1930Gelatin silver print6 7/8 x 5 3/4 in. (17.7 x 14.7 cm)Lee Miller Archives, England

  • Man Ray (1890-1976)Untitled (gold lips), n.d.Gold1 x 4 in. (2.5 x 10.1 cm)Man Ray Trust© 2010 Man Ray Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris

  • Man Ray (1890-1976)Lee Miller Nude with Sunray Lamp, c.1929Gelatin silver print11 3/8 x 9 in. (29.0 x 22.9 cm)

  • Lee Miller (1907-1977)Woman with Hand on Head, 1931Digital print8 1/2 x 6 7/8 in. (21.7 x 17.4 cm)Lee Miller Archives, England© Lee Miller Archives, England 2011. All rights reserved

  • Lee Miller (1907-1977)Man Ray Shaving, c.1929Gelatin silver print4 ¾ x 3 1/8 in. (12.3 x 7.7 cm) Lee Miller Archives, Sussex, England

  • Lee Miller (1907-1977) Untitled (Exploding Hand), c. 1930 Gelatin silver print 8 3/4 x 10 3/4 in. (22.3 x 27.4 cm) Lee Miller Archives, Sussex, England Photograph by Lee Miller © Lee Miller Archives, England 2011. All rights reserved. http://www.leemiller.co.uk