Worth A Thousand Words: Man Ray Portraits

– By Sarah Bertness –


There’s something about Paris in the Twenties. Dinner parties with Salvatore Dali, salons at Gertrude Stein’s, late night glasses of wine and musing on writing with Ernest Hemingway and painting with Pablo Picasso. The city of lights was a creative mecca, with a rotating cast of characters that would change the arts with broad strokes of passion, intellectualism and ingenuity.

Man Ray was the man behind the camera during this most decadent of decades, shooting some of the most prominent figures of the avant-garde art movements as a colleague, collaborator, lover, and friend. ‘Man Ray Portraits‘, on view through May 27th at London’s National Portrait Gallery, provides an intimate glimpse into some of the generation’s most captivating personas, from Coco Chanel to Virginia Woolf, and Le Corbusier to Andre Breton.

Man Ray PortraitsLeft to right: Solarised portrait of Lee Miller, c. 1929. Ava Gardner, in costume for Albert Lewin’s Pandora and the Flying Dutchman, c. 1950.  Coco Chanel, c. 1935

Man Ray’s portraits all share a certain allure. His stark, enigmatic and defining style seems to capture the portrait sitter¹s inner-most secrets within the photograph. Each image is the essence of its subject – whether photographer and female pioneer Lee Miller or actress and American icon Ava Gardner.

It’s no surprise that Man Ray’s work frequented the pages of the leading fashion lifestyle magazines of the day, including Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. The London exhibition, the first retrospective dedicated entirely to his portraiture, includes Le Violon d’ingres (1924) and Noire et blanche (1926), among the most stunning editorial images to appear in print and picture of Man Ray’s lover, model and muse, Kiki de Montparnasse.

Man-Ray-PortraitsLeft: Le Violon d’ingres, c. 1924. Right: Noire et blanche, c. 1926

Man Ray Portraits promises to be ‘A Moveable Feast’ come to life. If you’re in London, head over to the National Portrait Gallery for a good dose of inspiration from a cast of cultural icons who continue to inspire us, and the man whose photographs defined his generation.

‘Man Ray Portraits’ runs through May 27, 2013 at the National Portrait Gallery, Saint Martin’s Pl, London WC2H 0HE

Sarah Bertness is a freelance writer covering the arts, music, fashion and culture. She has a love for all things avant-garde, late night rock and roll, wanderlust, and a good dose of fringe and gold sequins. You can follow her musings on Twitter @sarahbertness

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About the Author

Sarah Bertness is the Editorial Manager of social shopping platform LIKEtoKNOW.it, covering the arts, music, fashion and culture from Dallas in her spare time. She has a love for public art, all things vinyl, antiquing, wanderlust, and a good dose of color blocking and print clashing. You can follow her travels and musings on Instagram @sarahbertness.