Monday Lectures

31 August 2020

Man and his Women: The Stories of Kiki, Berenice and Lee

Man Ray, Violon d'Ingres, 1924

Man Ray (born Emmanuel Radnitzky) arrived in Paris from New York in 1921. His best French friend in New York was the founder of the New York Dada movement, the notorious Marcel Duchamp with whom he had been collaborating since they had met in 1917. In Paris, however, he quickly switched from experimental but unsaleable avant-garde art objects to the more profitable field of photography. Man Ray quickly became one of the most popular portrait photographers of the “années folles” – the jazz age – in Paris and photographed nearly all of the French and Anglo-American celebrities of the art and literary worlds of the 1920s and 1930s. In our lecture we will concentrate on his relationships with the three most important women of his Paris career: his lover and “it girl” of Bohemian Paris, Kiki de Montparnasse, his first studio assistant and future rival, the New York photographer Berenice Abbott, and the classic American beauty of the 1930s - model, lover and photographer - Lee Miller.

 

Through his portrayals of the three women we will see how Man Ray forged three different but essential visions of the “new” woman of the 1920s and 1930s. His photos emphasize the sense of radical transformation, new-found freedom and liberated sexuality that Paris represented for many women escaping their homes and families in the post-WWI era. From nearly one hundred years ago Kiki, Berenice and Lee remain iconic representations of the type of free woman that so many conservatives are still fighting against today.

Man Ray, Portrait-Shadow, 1921