Photos 1920s 1930s
1922 Rayograph by Man Ray
2013 SOLD for $ 1.2M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2017 before the auction of two other photos by Christie's (see below)
In his new specialty as a photographer Man Ray imagines to position solid or openwork objects directly on the photosensitive surface. 80 years earlier Talbot had a similar practice for photographing the ferns. In such a process each image is unique.
Man Ray identifies his innovation as Rayographs coined on his own artist's name. Surrealists and Dadaists are delighted. The installation of everyday artefacts reminding the ready mades is appealing to the realists and the disturbing composition excites the poets.
A 24 x 18 cm Rayograph was sold on April 4, 2013 for $ 1.2M including premium by Christie's over a lower estimate of $ 250K, lot 17. Printed in a magazine in the spring of 1922 with a praise by Cocteau, this image had certainly been the very first published Rayograph.
On October 10, 2017, two Rayographs de-accessioned from the Museum of Modern Art passed at Christie's.
1924 Le Violon d'Ingres by Man Ray
2022 SOLD for $ 12.4M by Christie's
It features his model and lover Kiki de Montparnasse seated from the back. The head turned to her left is wearing a Turkish turban and an ear pendant. The voluptuous body in strong contrast with the black background is naked down to the draped hips.
Kiki is here performing the nude Grande Baigneuse by Ingres, later a central figure in le Bain Turc. The title of Man Ray's photo refers to the skill of Ingres for playing the violin, that became a French expression equivalent to the English 'hobby'.
The comparison of the female shape with a violin is reinforced by the fact that the arms are hidden and by the f-holes impressed on her back by reprocessing the original state with Man Ray's own rayograph technique.
The original print finished with the f-holes is a unique gelatin silver print 48.5 x 37.5 cm ink signed and dated 1924 by Man Ray. After being kept for half a century in the collection of its late owners, it was sold for $ 12.4M from a lower estimate of $ 5M by Christie's on May 14, 2022, lot 615.
For further prints the artist rephotographed the original rayogramme with a 5 x 7 inch camera. One of them was used by André Breton to illustrate his dada oriented Littérature magazine in 1924. A silver copy 31 x 25 cm that belonged to Breton was purchased in 1993 by Centre Pompidou.
It was to participate to the tattoo craze when young women had applied Man Ray's f-holes on their back.
1924 The Eye of the Architect
2019 SOLD for £ 950K including premium
The Soviets are attracted by the development of a useful art. A former collaborator of Malevich and an architect by training, El Lissitzky obtains in 1921 a mission of cultural ambassador to the Republic of Weimar. He is close to Moholy-Nagy in Weimar where Gropius has just created the Bauhaus, as well as to the Dada group led in Hannover by Kurt Schwitters and Käte Steinitz.
The photographic technique pleases both the Soviets and the anarchists by its speed of execution. It becomes a specific tool for which the camera is sometimes useless. New works of art are created by placing objects, texts or hands directly on the photosensitive surface. Photomontages use multiple exposures to capture the viewer through the effect of nonsense.
In 1924 Lissitzky shows his self-portrait in a collage including photomontages, titled The Constructor as to support a future architectural program. The eye comes right in the center of the palm of the hand that holds the compass and this transparent set is backed by a sheet of graph paper. The letters XYZ appear in positive and the name of the artist in negative, demonstrating the suitability of this technique to create promotional posters.
In the same year he made several photographic prints of this artwork. The largest known, 25 x 28 cm, was gifted by the artist to Steinitz. It is estimated £ 800K for sale by Christie's in London on March 6, lot 114. A 7.7 x 8.8 cm print was sold for $ 510K including premium by Sotheby's on December 12, 2012.
Made in the same year by Lissitzky, a 10.7 x 9.4 cm photomontage showing a double portrait of Schwitters with the inscription MERZ was sold for $ 250K including premium by Christie's on February 14, 2007 over a lower estimate of $ 6K.
#AuctionUpdate #ElLissitzky’s ‘Self-Portrait ('The Constructor')’, a powerful symbol of the artistic, political, cultural and societal sea-changes that upended the world in the 1910s and 20s sets a new #WorldAuctionRecord realising £947,250 pic.twitter.com/NRFsMSpH9d— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) March 6, 2019
1925 Nude by Weston
2008 SOLD for $ 1.6M including premium by Sotheby's
narrated in 2013 before the sale of another photo by Christie's (see below)
In 1925, attracted by Miriam Lerner, he leaves his residence in Mexico for a short romantic break in California. The naked body of his friend inspires him. The study of curves is totally artistic, and photography escapes from its naturalist and documentary shackles.
A platinum print of Miriam's torso with crossed arms, 24 x 19 cm, was sold for $ 313K including premium by Sotheby's on 15 October 2007. On April 4, 2013, Christie's sold for $ 480K including premium a 15 x 17 cm palladium print of the same image.
Made at the same place and in the same year, a photograph of a laying female back, 13 x 23 cm on matte silver paper, was sold for $ 1.6M including premium by Sotheby's on April 7, 2008 from a lower estimate of $ 600K, lot 19. This minimalist body can not be formally identified but is quite probably Miriam's.
This series opens up the fascinating comparison by Weston between female body and nature. The beauty of curves is the unsettling common point between the nude, shells, peppers and sand dunes.
1925 Fotogramm (Hand) by Moholy-Nagy
2012 SOLD for $ 1.48M including premium by Sotheby's
narrated in 2013 before the sale of another Fotogramm by Christie's (see below)
After the first world war, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, a young teacher at the Bauhaus, passionate about Suprematism and Constructivism, reuses that technique in his research on the expression of light, independently of similar work by Man Ray.
When the object thus printed on the sensitive paper, in one or more poses, is not recognizable, the result is an abstract photography, on black background, with beautiful flashes of light and subtle gradations of gray, with alternatively sharp and blurred sides. Helped by his wife Lucia, Laszlo realized afterwards some enlargements for the purpose of exhibitions or for preparing portfolios.
One of these abstract Fotogramms was designed between 1923 and 1925, probably with a folded paper somehow crumpled. An enlarged copy 37 x 27 cm made by Lucia in 1929 was sold for $ 510K including premium by Christie's on April 4, 2013.
The Fotogramm of the hand, to which the shadows bring a surreal vision, was realized in 1925 on 24 x 18 cm size. This photograph was sold for $ 1.48M including premium by Sotheby's on 12 December 2012 from an estimate of $ 300K, lot 20.
1926 Noire et Blanche by Man RAY
2017 SOLD for € 2.7M by Christie's
The Demoiselles d'Avignon whose heads resemble masks appears from then as a precursor of modern art. On the advice of André Breton, Jacques Doucet bought this painting from Picasso in December 1924. Picasso denied an African influence on that seminal example of his own primitive art.
Man Ray is much at ease in this intellectual bustle. In 1924 he takes a photo titled Black and white for which he juxtaposes an African mask with a nude statuette from the German Renaissance.
Another photograph by the same artist appears in May 1926 in the French edition of Vogue magazine. Titled Visage de nacre et masque d'ébène (Face in mother-of-pearl and ebony mask), it displays Kiki de Montparnasse with a Baule mask. With her eyes closed, Man Ray's muse has her head resting on a table on which the African object is held upright by her hand.
This image which is simply composed of two perfect ovals opens a vision of the opposites in the best surrealist tradition : white and black, Europe and Africa, horizontal and vertical, living and object. Its title became Noire et Blanche in 1928 without the agreement of the author.
The very first silver print of this photograph, 21 x 28 cm, was carefully prepared by the artist including many reworks to meet his ideal of perfection. Immediately acquired by Doucet, it makes Noire et Blanche appear as a response by Man Ray to the Demoiselles d'Avignon. This print was sold for € 2.7M from a lower estimate of € 1M by Christie's on November 9, 2017, lot 8.
Always keen to his own promotion, Picasso no longer neglects the African trend. He highlights a posteriori the Demoiselles d'Avignon as the cornerstone of Cubism and looks for a young blonde muse with a flat nose. She will be Marie-Thérèse.
2022 SOLD for $ 4M by Christie's
It was prepared by Man Ray in 1926 in his darkroom in Paris by enlargement from the original negative.
Acquired by his feature muse Kiki, it is inscribed by her ‘La femme aux yeux clos a une grande admiration pour la femme aux yeux ouverts’ (the woman with closed eyes is in admiration for the woman with opened eyes), so witnessing the increasing influence of tribal art on modern art.
Slight hand retouches were made by the artist on this print and on his copy negative for larger contact prints. A similar early print is kept at the MoMA. About 24 prints were made overall.
1932 The Eye was in the City
2012 SOLD 1.48 M$ including premium
Freeing himself from the influence of Moholy-Nagy, he sees photography as a medium for an expressive composition and not as a technical feat. Far ahead of his time, he appreciates that the most disturbing images shall have the biggest impact. By this trend, we might be tempted to link his art, wrongly, to surrealism.
Executed in 1932, Lonely Metropolitan is a photomontage composed of photographic collages accentuated by black and white gouaches.
In the courtyard of a building, two hands are raised alongside. They are stopped at the top of the sleeve. Each palm is centered with the photograph of an eye, with the eyebrow superseding the upper horizontal line of the hand. The position of both eyes simulates a gaze.
The original photomontage or Fotoplastik, 41 x 30 cm, is estimated $ 300K, for sale by Sotheby's in New York on December 12.
Bayer edited this image from 1936 onwards.
I invite you to play the video shared by the auction house.
POST SALE COMMENT
Forget the estimate. This photomontage is rare and important, not only for understanding the artistic process of Bayer, but especially to mark the essential contribution of the Bauhaus in the construction of the modern world. It was sold $ 1.48 million including premium.
In the same sale, the photo of a hand by Moholy-Nagy was sold at the same price, $ 1.48 million including premium.
1935 The North American Indian by Curtis
2012 SOLD for $ 1.44M by Swann
Started with enthusiasm during the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt, the project had lasted too long. When it was finally completed in 1930, with its twenty portfolios of large size photogravures 58 x 24 cm and twenty volumes of text 31 x 24 cm also illustrated with photographs, it was already a failure. With 222 subscribers, Curtis was far from achieving the target of 500 copies given to him by his sponsor, the banker Morgan.
The fabulous editing material of Curtis was purchased in 1935 by a dealer of rare books based in Boston, Charles E. Lauriat, who appreciated the importance of this work. Lauriat became the owner of few unsold complete copies, of all the original copper plates and of 285,000 prints.
With these elements, Lauriat assembled additional complete copies, by reprinting as necessary from the original plates the pages that had been outprinted, bringing the grand total to 291. Lauriat's death in 1937 put an end to the most outstanding photographic edition of all time. The Curtis-Lauriat material, rediscovered in the early 1970s, has not been dispersed.
On October 4, 2012, Swann sold for $ 1.44M a full set of The North American Indian, in which text volumes printed by Lauriat are completing the portfolios prepared by Curtis. This copy has a rare feature : all images of three portfolios including number I are signed by Curtis. Please watch the video shared by Swann.
1936 Tearful Woman by Man Ray
2017 SOLD for $ 2.17M including premium by Christie's
The artist reserves the painting for the dream images and preferentially uses photography for the compositions based on reality. This champion of eroticism regrets the lack of colors in art photography. The autochrome and the dufaycolor are only available in small size. Man Ray tries the best trichrome process but abandons immediately because the technical difficulty slows down the creativity.
Man Ray then tries the colored pencils over black and white prints. At the very beginning of photography, the miniaturists converted their business into photography by watercoloring the edition photos, bringing an illusion of realism that appealed to customers. The experiment by Man Ray is a rare application in his time of a similar practice in large format.
On October 19, 2017, Sotheby's sold for € 750K including premiumTearful Woman, a silver print 23 x 18 cm realized and hand colored by Man Ray and dated 1935.
The colors are varied and charming. The facial skin is smooth and pink. Under the carefully made up eyebrows, the eyes look upward, filled to the wet just before the tears drop. The deep red mouth is half open, showing that the gaze expresses emotion and not grief. The identity of the model is unknown.
Only one other print is extant. Dated 1936 and of the same format, it had belonged to Robert Mapplethorpe. It was sold by Christie's on May 17, 2017 for $ 2.17M including premium over a lower estimate of $ 400K, lot 7 B.
This attempt was a one off in two copies. The technical progress of color photography brings more direct processes. The Kodachrome for slides in cinema format is released in 1935 and the negative Kodacolor film in 1942.