About this artwork
In 1921 Man Ray left New York for Paris, where he found a welcoming group of French and expatriate artists and writers. Although he considered himself a painter, Man Ray had been making and showing photographs since the later 1910s, and within a year of his relocation he devoted himself to photography as an experimental art form and a means of earning his living.
Tristan Tzara, Man Ray’s close friend and a leader of the “anti-art” Dada movement, intro¬duced the artist in January 1922 to cameraless photographic images made by the German artist Christian Schad. Tzara had dubbed the works Schadographs, and Man Ray, already inclined toward subversive uses of objects and camera images, adopted both the procedure and the self-referential title: Rayographs were the result. A form of abstraction fashioned from industrial consumer goods (photo¬graphic paper and the sundry items placed on them), with the direct intervention of the human hand, Rayographs articulated a key Dada interest in homemade reworkings of the materials of industrial and consumer society.
Man Ray turned, however, from Schad’s emphasis on grubby detritus and cheap photographic papers to more sumptuous gelatin silver sheets, and his Rayographs transformed objects and parts of the human body into fantastic signs of the real. In this he followed the lead of Pablo Picasso, particularly his Cubist collages of 1912–14, which juxtaposed real and depicted things and played with spatial relations to such an extent that art became not a window onto reality but a language of form.
In summer 1922 Man Ray produced, in an edition of 40 copies, a portfolio of 12 photographs made from original Rayographs. The title, Delicious Fields (Champs délicieux) was a pun on the Elysian Fields, the resting place of the heroic and good in ancient Greek mythology. Tzara wrote the book’s preface, a declarative text titled “Photography Upside-Down,” which brilliantly sends up conventional art photography and art in general. Man Ray showed his Rayographs to Picasso, and he later recalled their impact: “I saw Picasso here on his knees before a photogram. He allowed that in many years he had not experienced as great a sensation of art as from it. Painting is dead, finished.”
- Currently Off View
- Photography and Media
- Man Ray (Emmanuel Radnitzky)
- United States
- Made 1922
- Gelatin silver print, from the album "Delicious Fields (Champs délicieux)"
- Unmarked recto; verso unchecked
- 22. × 17.1 cm (image/paper)
- Julien Levy Collection, Special Photography Acquisition Fund
- © 2018 Man Ray Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris