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Details & Cataloguing

Man Ray
1890 - 1976
LES GENS EN COLÈRE D'UN APRÈS-MIDI
signed Man Ray and dated 1928 (lower right) and titled (lower left)
oil on canvas
162 by 114cm.
63 3/4 by 44 7/8 in.
Painted in 1928.
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To be included in the Catalogue of the Paintings of Man Ray being prepared by Andrew Strauss and Timothy Baum.

Provenance

Lee Miller (a gift from the artist)
Private Collection
Acquired by the present owner circa 1962-64

Exhibited

Paris, Galerie Van Leer, Man Ray, 1928, no. 1
London, New Burlington Galleries, The International Surrealist Exhibition, 1936, no. 312 (titled Folk Irritated About an Afternoon)
Frankfurt, Frankfurter Kunstverein and Basel, Kunsthalle, Man Ray - Inventionen und Interpretationen, 1979-80, no. 17
Tokyo, The Bunkamura Museum of Art; Takamatsu, City Museum of Art; Tsukuba, Museum of Art, Ibaraki; Okayama, Prefectural Museum of Art; Akita, Senshu Museum of Art; Itami, City Museum of Art, Man Ray et ses amis, 1991-92, no. 46, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

Literature

'Le Surréalisme en 1929', in Variétés, Brussels, June 1929 (numéro hors serie), illustrated opposite p. 6
T. H. Cochran, 'An Australian in London', in The Home, Australia, 1st September 1936, p. 34, illustrated (in a photograph of the London 1936 exhibition)
Man Ray, Self Portrait, Prague, 1968, illustrated following p. 168
Roland Penrose, Scrap Book 1900-1981, London, 1981, p. 66, fig. 162, illustrated (in a photograph of the 1936 London exhibition)
David Sylvester (ed.) and Sarah Whitfield, René Magritte, Catalogue raisonné. Oil Paintings and Objects 1931-1948, London, 1993, vol. II, p. 48, fig. 40, illustrated (in a photograph of the London 1936 exhibition)

Catalogue Note

By mid-1928, Man Ray's five-year relationship with the ever flamboyant and glamorous Kiki de Montparnasse (fig. 2) was reaching its limits and friends noticed their arguments were becoming increasingly more frequent and violent with chairs and bottles flying across rooms. Les Gens en colère d'un après-midi or Folk Irritated About an Afternoon, as it was called in the seminal 1936 International Surrealist Exhibition in London, reflects the moments of anger in Man Ray's personal life at the time. Composed of overlapping biomorphic human-like forms and protruding limbs, the composition is charged with sexuality, and the only clearly recognisable elements are the hand and chair. 

While the title of this painting records the artist's embroiled relationship with Kiki, it might seem coincidental that the first owner of the work was none other than Lee Miller (fig. 3), Man Ray's next companion and lover. The relationship lasted three years until 1932 when Lee Miller left Man Ray for Aziz Eloui Bey, an Egyptian whom she would eventually marry. By summer 1937, still married to Eloui Bey, she fell in love with Roland Penrose. In a letter written to Penrose from Cairo, dated in autumn 1937, Lee Miller wrote of the painting's success among their high-society Egyptian friends:

"Its over this sofa that I intend to put the big painting by Man Ray, but in that Kemal [Eloui Bey] and Aziz [Eloui Bey] gave it a vote of confidence I’m putting it in the dining room, instead… The whole town is talking about my pictures, and everyone who comes to tea, lunch or dinner parades the whole house over and then look(s) rather dizzy. Man Ray’s has become the real ‘sujet de conversation’ as they all immediately try to find something rude in it and of course that is not difficult, and lets them out from discussing art." (© Lee Miller Archives 2003. All rights reserved)

Les Gens en colère d'un après-midi was painted at the height of the Surrealist movement and is a prime example. Within Man Ray's body of work, it is one in a distinct series of large format paintings by the artist that include AD MCMXIV or War, 1914 (Philadelphia Museum of Art), The Rope Dancer Accompanies Herself With Her Shadows, 1916 (Museum of Modern Art, New York; fig. 1), A l'Heure de l'Observatoire - les Amoureux, 1932-34 (Private Collection) and Le Beau Temps, 1939 (promised gift to Philadelphia Museum of Art). In each of these large-scale works, Man Ray painted with great deliberation and successfully strived for the dramatic impact of the finished work, both visual and imaginary.

Fig. 1, Man Ray, The Rope Dancer Accompanies Herself With Her Shadows, 1916, oil on canvas, Museum of Modern Art, New York
Fig. 2, Man Ray, Kiki de Montparnasse (Alice Prin), late 1920s, photograph
Fig. 3, Man Ray, Lee Miller, circa 1930, photograph
Fig. 4, A view of the International Surrealist Exhibition held at the New Burlington Galleries in London in 1936, showing the present painting

Surrealist Art

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