Man Ray
© The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / DACS, London 2009

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Man Ray 1974
  • Artist Rooms
In the early 1970s Warhol began to accept regular commissions to paint the portraits of the rich and famous. However, as well as commissions, Warhol painted a number of portraits of people he admired, especially other artists. Man Ray, the American photographer and Dada artist, was one of his heroes, so much so that, when he could afford it, Warhol acquired a number of his photographs, paintings and early books. This portrait-diptych of Man Ray is based on a Polaroid photograph he took of him, cigar in mouth, in 1973. As with the portraits of his mother and other people he felt close to, these portraits of Man Ray are among the most painterly and heavily-worked Warhol ever painted.

Glossary Open

Commission

When an individual or organisation employs an artist to execute a particular project, the process and the resulting work are termed a ‘commission’.

Dada

A radical artistic and literary movement that was a reaction against the cultural climate that supported the First World War. The Dadaists took an anti-establishment attitude, questioning art's status and favouring performance and collage over traditional art techniques. Many Dadaists went on to become involved with Surrealism.

Diptych

An artwork consisting of two components, often joined in the centre by a hinge.

Commission, Dada, Diptych

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This portrait is one of a pair of works based on a Polaroid photograph taken by Warhol of the artist Man Ray (1890–1976), a central figure in the dada and surrealist movements. The second work, which is the same size and has the same title, is AR00326.

The photograph was taken on 30 November 1973 in Paris, where Man Ray lived. An audiotape recording of the modelling session attests that Warhol specifically requested Man Ray to hold his cigar in his mouth, remove his glasses, and keep his hands away from his face (Goldsmith, Wolf and Koestenbaum 2004, p.235). The painting and its pair were made in 1974 in Warhol’s New York studio, known as the Factory, on unstretched canvas that had been rolled out flat on the studio floor. One of Warhol’s assistants, Rupert Smith, helped the artist with screen-printing. This work shows Man Ray with a yellow jacket against a green background, while its pair shows the jacket as predominantly blue against a deep red background. There are several places where these colours blur together and overlap, serving variously to obscure and emphasise facial details. Following the screen-printing process, Warhol made additions by hand using broad paintbrushes that have left the surface of both canvases swathed in thick, visible brush strokes.

Although the majority of Warhol’s portraits from this time were commissions and featured the rich and famous, he also made non-commissioned portraits of fellow artists for whom he had great respect. In a self-recorded video diary made in 1976 Warhol claimed that he ‘only really loved him [Man Ray] for his name, to be truthful … his name was the best thing about him’ (Goldsmith, Wolf and Koestenbaum 2004, p.231), though other evidence suggests that Warhol had admired Man Ray for a long time. In the early years of his career Warhol collected Man Ray’s photographs and prints, and the older artist’s painting Peinture feminine 1954 (private collection) was hung prominently in the sitting room of Warhol’s New York townhouse.

The heavily worked brushstrokes in Man Ray indicate that Warhol spent some time and energy perfecting it, and are similar to those visible in portraits of his mother, for example Julia Warhola 1974 (Leo Castelli Gallery, New York). The critic and art historian Carter Ratcliff has argued that this unusual formal feature attests to the importance Warhol placed on this work and the ‘convincing emotion’ he felt toward the subject (Ratcliff 1983, p.72).

Further reading
Carter Ratcliff, Andy Warhol, New York 1983, reproduced p.167.
Kenneth Goldsmith, Reva Wolf and Wayne Koestenbaum, I'll Be Your Mirror: The Selected Andy Warhol Interviews: 1962–1987, New York 2004, pp.229–32.

Oliver Lurz
January 2012

 

Details

  • Acc. No. AR00039
  • Medium Acrylic paint and silkscreen on 2 canvases
  • Size 35.60 x 28.00 X 2.00 cm
  • Credit ARTIST ROOMS National Galleries of Scotland and Tate. Acquired jointly through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008