Drawn in 1936.
Gallery Mayer, New York
Acquired from the above in December 1959
New York, Valentine Gallery, Drawings by Man Ray, 1936, no. 22
Paris, Galerie Jeanne Bucher, Les Dessins de Man Ray, 1937
Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Man Ray, 1966, p. 38, illustrated
New York, Gallery Mayer, Man Ray Drawings, 1959
Man Ray & Paul Eluard, Les Mains Libres, Paris, 1937, illustrated p. 185
Sarane Alexandrian, Man Ray, Paris & Berlin, 1973, illustrated p. 17
Arturo Schwarz, Man Ray, The Rigour of Imagination, London, 1977, fig. 73, illustrated p. 89
Janus, Man Ray, Tutti gli scritti, Milan, 1981, illustrated p. 163
Man Ray in America (exhibition catalogue), The Maggerty Museum of Art, Marquette University, Milwaukee, 1989, illustrated p. 42
Man Ray's revealing portrait of Picasso, partially masked by an unidentified crouching nude, was executed in 1936 and is arguably one of the artist's finest portrait drawings along with his memorable portraits of André Breton, Paul Eluard, and his imaginary portrait of the Marquis de Sade.
By the mid-1930s, Man Ray had lost much of his interest in commercial photography, dominated by fashion and commissioned portraiture, and returned to creating some of his finest Surrealist works. In Paris and the South of France in 1936-37, Man Ray completed a series of drawings, sixty-five of which would be published in Les Mains Libres, Paris in 1937. In true Surrealist fashion, the book was conceived to reproduce Man Ray's drawings which were, in turn, 'illustrated' by poems that Paul Eluard composed to accompany the drawings. The present portrait of Picasso is not illustrated by a poem but is featured in a chapter on portraits of the above named pillars of Surrealism. Interestingly, Man Ray dates the portrait XIXXXXVI which is a tribute to Picasso, who often dated his works with Roman numerals in the 1930s. Here, Man Ray plays with the presentation of the date in Roman numerals XIX (19) + XXXVI (36).
Man Ray first met Picasso in 1922, shortly after his arrival in Paris from New York. One of his first commissions was to photograph some of Picasso's latest works and, at that time, Man Ray photographed Picasso and his wife Olga with their son Paolo. By 1936, Picasso had commenced a new relationship with Dora Maar, with whom he would spend the three summers leading up to the Second War in Mougins in the South of France, together with his friends including, Eluard, Man Ray, Roland Penrose, Lee Miller and Breton to name but a few. In his autobiography, Man Ray provided the following description of Picasso, which can be detected in this wonderfully perceptive drawing: "Picasso gave me the impression of a man who was aware of all that was going on about him and in the world in general, a man who reacted violently to all impacts, but had only one outlet to express his feelings: painting. His short epigrammatic or enigmatic phrases which he let drop from time to time only emphasized his impatience with any other form of expression" (M. Ray, Self Portrait, London and Boston, 1988, p. 177).
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