MANRAYAmerican, 1890-1976Sculpture, 1920.Gelatin silver print on Société Anonyme, Inc. Postcard.5 x 3½ in. (12.7 x 8.9 cm).Variously credited and annotated in unknown hands in ink and in pencil on the verso.Provenance
Former collection of Sheldon Cheney, author of various histories of modern art.Literature
L'Ecotais and Sayag, Man Ray: Photographs and Its Double, 1998, p. 19
see also Foresta, et al., Perpetual Motif, 1988, pl. 71, p. 81
Bulfinch Press Book, Self Portrait, 1963, p. 84, for images of the later sculpture.
"Once the idea for a given object took hold, Man Ray only had to select the medium that best expressed his intentions. In some cases, a photograph of an object better conveyed his thoughts than the object itself."
Francis Nauman, Perpetual Motif: The Art of Man Ray, 1988, p. 76
This photograph by Man Ray embodies the many mediums, forms, thoughts and processes by which his work is known. The original sculpture in the photograph, Lampshade, 1919 consisted of a strip of paper that was torn from a broken lampshade found in the trash and attached to a stand previously used to hold a dress. Man Ray was so pleased with the resulting form that he decided to submit it for the opening exhibition at the new museum Société Anonyme, Inc.
Société Anonyme, Inc., conceived by Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray and Katherine Dreier, a New York artist, collector and philanthropist, was to be one of New York's first modern art museums and a center for the study and promotion of work by the international avantgarde. In their first meeting regarding the founding of the museum, Man Ray not only suggested the museum be named Société Anonyme, but he also volunteered his services as a photographer. Upon hearing this, Dreier suggested Man Ray create images for postcards of the exhibited works. The subject of the print offered here is Man Ray's original Lampshade, 1919 sculpture intended for the museum's inaugural exhibition in 1920.
The morning before the museum's opening, the sculpture Lampshade, 1919 by Man Ray could not be found. Unfortunately, mistaking the paper spiral as merely the leftover wrapping for the stand, the janitor discarded it with the other rubbish. Man Ray quickly created a sculptural alternative – this time in metal. "With satisfaction, I contemplated the substitution, taking pleasure in the thought that it would resist any attempt at destruction" (Man Ray, Self Portrait, 1963, p. 83). Today, along with Man Ray, we can take satisfaction in the photograph offered here. For it is not only an example of Man Ray's work continuing to resist destruction, but perhaps it is also – as Naumann notes – able to express Man Ray's thoughts better than the original sculpture ever could.
The only other known print of this image was in a private collection in Paris as of 1998.