Private collection, 1989
Sotheby's New York, 16 October 2004, Sale 8018, Lot 125
Maria Morris Hambourg and Christopher Phillips, The New Vision: Photography Between the World Wars, The Ford Motor Company Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, 1989), pl. 65
Christian Bouqueret, Des Années Folles, aux Années Noires: La Nouvelle Vision Photographique en France, 1920 – 1940 (Paris: Editions Marval, 1997), fig. 146, p. 148, for a reproduction of the cover illustration listed above
Guy Cogeval, Ulrich Pohlmann, and Xavier Rey, Masculin / Masculin: L'Homme nu dans l'Art de 1800 à nos Jours (Paris, 2013), no. 24
Although more commonly associated with sensuous or abstracted depictions of the female body, Man Ray made several photographs of a male sitter in the early 1930s. While the athletic arm pictured here is disembodied, it is reminiscent of a photograph that Man Ray took of his preferred male model Nils in 1933, a print of which exists in the Man Ray Archives at the Centre Pompidou, Paris (fig. 1). The sitter’s arm in Nu masculin bears striking resemblances to the work offered here – the arm is bent at the same angle, the shadows fall in the same places, and the musculature is almost undoubtedly that of the same man.
‘Bras’ (arm) was illustrated on the cover of Mentzel and Roux’s 1935 volume Formes Nues, a bilingual publication edited by the famous Editions d'Art Graphique et Photographique, which promoted contemporary European photographers. The photographers featured in Formes Nues, including Unital, André Kertész, and László Moholy-Nagy, were selected for their use of modern aesthetics in application to timeless themes, such as the nude. Man Ray’s surreal, incorporeal photograph of an arm, chosen for the cover, epitomized the exploration the publishers were seeking to highlight. The influence of Surrealism on Man Ray is clearly evident in this cleverly cropped and completely decontextualized body part, which has been rendered nearly unrecognizable as an arm.
At the time of this writing, only one other print of this image has been located: in The Ford Motor Company Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
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