About this Artwork
In 1924 Man Ray created Le Violon d’Ingres (Ingres’s Violin) by painting the F holes of a violin onto photographic prints of his lover Kiki de Montparnasse. His photograph was based on the painting Valincon Bather by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. The curvy body shape, conjured up images of musical instruments like the violin, and he re-photographed the altered print, naming it Le Violon d’Ingres. Although the Neoclassical artist Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780 – 1867) produced a variety of works, from portraits to history painting, he is nowadays most famous for his sensuous female nudes. This work from 1806, The Valpinçon Bather, is considered to be a precursor to many of Ingres’s later nudes, most notably his Turkish Bath from 1862. More than a century later, the idealistic, serene depiction of this voluptuous yet chaste girl in an exotic context, inspired Man Ray to create his well-known photograph, Le violon d’Ingres. Typical for the surrealist movement that he belonged to, Man Ray’s 1924 recreation of Ingres’s work plays with the meaning of words and the associations and imagination of the spectator. He photographed his favorite model and muse, Kiki de Montparnasse, in a setting and pose that refers to Ingres’s enchanting painting. By adding the f-holes to her naked back, he transformed her body into a violin. This seems to explain its title, Ingres’s Violin, sufficiently, but we will see that that it is more than just the mix of a painting and an instrument. Ingres’s great passion besides his art was playing the violin. As a violinist, he was not without merit and he maintained musical contacts with, among others, Paganini and Liszt. This pastime would eventually lead to a general expression in French: ‘violon d’Ingres’, meaning a skill other than that at which one excels, a hobby. Man Ray’s photograph can thus be seen as a visualization of this French expression. And it can’t be a coincidence that Man Ray, though viewed as one of the most famous photographers ever, always persevered that he was a painter and sculptor and that his photography was just something he did on the side, in other words a ‘violon d’Ingres’.
About the Artist
Man Ray’s career is distinctive above all for the success he achieved in both the United States and Europe. First maturing in the center of American modernism in the 1910s, he made Paris his home in the 1920s and 1930s, and in the 1940s he crossed the Atlantic once again, spending periods in New York and Hollywood. His art spanned painting, sculpture, film, prints and poetry, and in his long career he worked in styles influenced by Cubism, Futurism, Dada and Surrealism. He also successfully navigated the worlds of commercial and fine art, and came to be a sought-after fashion photographer. He is perhaps most remembered for his photographs of the inter-war years, in particular the camera-less pictures he called ‘Rayographs’, but he always regarded himself first and foremost as a painter. Although he matured as an abstract painter, Man Ray eventually disregarded the traditional superiority painting held over photography and happily moved between different forms. Dada and Surrealism were important in encouraging this attitude; they also persuaded him that the idea motivating a work of art was more important than the work of art itself. For Man Ray, photography often operated in the gap between art and life. It was a means of documenting sculptures that never had an independent life outside the photograph, and it was a means of capturing the activities of his avant-garde friends. His work as a commercial photographer encouraged him to create fine, carefully composed prints, but he would never aspire to be a fine art photographer in the manner of his early inspiration, Alfred Stieglitz. André Breton once described Man Ray as a ‘pre-Surrealist’, something which accurately describes the artist’s natural affinity for the style. Even before the movement had coalesced, in the mid 1920s, his work, influenced by Marcel Duchamp, had Surrealist undertones, and he would continue to draw on the movement’s ideas throughout his life. His work has ultimately been very important in popularizing Surrealism.
More Artwork by Man Ray
Man Ray: ‘Le Violon d’Ingres (variant)’, 1924, Photographic reproduction, Kiki de Montparnasse in a variante of “Violons d’Ingres”. © Man Ray Trust / ADAGP, BI, Paris 2010, size 18 x 24 cm, Price € 280,- Order Here!
Man Ray: ‘ Larmes de verre / Glass Tears’, 1934, Photographic reproduction © Man Ray Trust / ADAGP, BI, Paris 2010, size: 24 x 33 cm. Price € 280,- Order Here!
About this Artwork
Judging from his inclusion of this image in other photographic compositions, Man Ray must have considered Tears one of his most successful photographs. A cropped version of it with a single eye also appears as the first plate in a 1934 book of his photographs. Like the emotive expression of a silent screen star in a film still, the woman’s plaintive upward glance and mascara-encrusted lashes seem intended to invoke wonder at the cause of her distress. The face belongs to a fashion model who cries tears of glistening, round glass beads; the effect is to aestheticize the sentiment her tears would normally express. Man Ray made this photograph in Paris around the time of his breakup with his lover Lee Miller, and the woman’s false tears may relate to that event in the artist’s life.
Man Ray: “Noire et Blanche”, 1926, Photographic reproduction © Man Ray Trust / ADAGP, BI, Paris 2010. size: 24 x 33 cm. Price € 280,- Order Here!
Man Ray: ‘Kiki de Montparnasse’, 1924, Photographic reproduction © Man Ray Trust / ADAGP, BI, Paris 2010, size: 18 x 24 cm, triple portrait woman close-up on face, extract from Fernand Leger’s “Ballet Mecanique” superimposition, picture from a movie. Price € 280,- Order Here!
Man Ray: ‘Yesterday Today Tomorrow’, 1924, Photographic reproduction © Man Ray Trust / ADAGP, BI, Paris 2010, size 18 x 24 cm. Price € 280,- Order Here!
Man Ray: ‘Untitled’, 1966, 1 color lithograph, handsigned on the bottom right, numbered left, edition of 125, sheet size: 64.77 x 55.88 cm / 25 1/2″ x 22″ ins. Price € 5.200,- Order Here!
See more famous photographers of that time: George Hoyningen-Huene