Galleria 'Il Collezionista d'Arte Contemporanea', Rome (acquired from the artist in 1973)
Acquired from the above by the father of the present owner in 1973
Hollywood, Frank Perls Gallery, Man Ray. Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings, Photographic Compositions, 1941, no. 21
Pasadena, Art Institute, Retrospective Exhibition 1913-1944, Paintings, Drawings, Watercolors, Photographs by Man Ray, 1944, no. 28
New York, Julien Levy Gallery, Man Ray, 1945, no. 9
New Haven, Yale University, An Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture by the Directors of the Société Anonyme since its foundation 1920-1948, 1948, no. 53
Princeton, University Art Museum, Man Ray, Drawings, Watercolors, Rayograms, Chess Sets, Books, Objects, 1963, no. 23
Rotterdam, Museum Boymans-van Beuningen & Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Man Ray, 1971-72, no. 27, illustrated in the catalogue
Humlebæk, Louisiana Museum, Man Ray, 1972, no. 24
Rome, Galleria 'Il Collezionista d'Arte Contemporanea', Man Ray, opere 1914-1973, 1973, illustrated in the catalogue (titled La Chance II)
Rome, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Man Ray, l'occhio e il suo doppio, dipinti, collages, disegni, invenzioni fotografiche, ogetti d'affezione, libri, cinema, 1975, no. 139, illustrated in the catalogue
Janus, Man Ray, Milan, 1973, fig. 58, illustrated in colour
Sarane Alexandrian, Man Ray, Paris, 1973, illustrated in colour pp. 20-21
Lara Vinca Masini, Man Ray, Florence, 1974, fig. 29, illustrated in colour
Roland Penrose, Man Ray, London, 1975, pl. XI, illustrated in colour p. 129 (as dating from 1938-41)
Arturo Schwarz, Man Ray. The Rigour of Imagination, London, 1977, no. 184, illustrated in colour p. 109; illustrated in colour on the dust jacket
Perpetual Motif: The Art of Man Ray (exhibition catalogue), National Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C., 1988-90, discussed pp. 284-85
Janus, Man Ray, œuvres 1909-1972, Milan & Paris, 1990, fig. 33, illustrated in colour; illustrated in colour on the dust jacket
One of the most iconic Man Ray images, the present work is a 1941 variant of La Fortune painted in Paris in 1938 (fig. 1), now in the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. Having lived in Paris for nearly twenty years, in 1940 Man Ray fled France in haste, returned to America and soon settled in Hollywood. His time spent there was largely devoted to painting and object making, and many of the paintings, including La Fortune II, were re-workings or elaborations of recent oils, feared lost to the German Occupation.
Among the items Man Ray brought with him from Paris was a small package of photographs of paintings that he had left behind and thought he would never find again. The artist himself explained: ‘It occurred to me that as soon as I got myself settled, I’d reconstruct some of them while the memory of their colours was still fresh in my mind. I acquired some canvases, picked out a photograph of one of these paintings I’d left behind and studied it, trying to recall the original colours. Then I changed my mind. Why make copies simply, which would be drudgery? Within the general outlines and composition, I began to improvise freely. Other painters had made many variations of the one subject - I’d do something entirely different each time to maintain my interest and enthusiasm’ (quoted in A. Schwarz, op. cit., p. 75).
Among the first paintings from this group were the Imaginary Portrait of D. A. F. de Sade II of 1940 (fig. 2), Le Beau temps II of 1941 and La Fortune II. Discussing the difference between the two versions of the present work, Merry Foresta commented that ‘… to La Fortune II he added a mysterious tower in the distance, referring as much to his favorite landscapes of Leonardo as to the castle of the Marquis de Sade [the Chateau de La Coste in the South of France], or even to traditional fairy tales and imprisoned beauties - perhaps implying his own exile in a “foreign” country (M. Foresta in Perpetual Motif: The Art of Man Ray (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., p. 284).
A key component in Surrealist thinking, dreams and imagination were frequently a source of Man Ray's art and in the late 1930s he painted some of his most inspired and celebrated compositions. La Fortune II depicts an imaginary landscape dominated by brightly coloured clouds. Emerging from what would appear to be the viewer’s own space beyond the scope of the canvas, an elongated billiard table dominates the composition, propped up by an elaborately carved wooden leg. Through this unexpected juxtaposition, the artist created an image of intrigue, building an ambiguous, alternative reality only possible in the world of dreams. This ambiguity is further amplified by the contrast between the soft execution and neutral colouration of the landscape, and the sharpness and brightness of the billiard table and the clouds. Furthermore, the title itself certainly appealed to the Surrealists’ delight in enigma and multiple meanings: ‘La fortune’ implies concepts of wealth, as well as chance and luck, whilst the notions of game and gamble are further implied by the billiard table.
Discussing the 1938 version of this work, which Arturo Schwarz considered to be ‘one of Man Ray’s most successful dream-images’, Man Ray commented: ‘I distorted the perspective of that table on purpose, I wanted it to look as big as a lawn. I could have had two people playing tennis on it, and I would be watching, just as I have been watching the tennis game on television. The green of the table reminds me of a grass lawn. I have always wanted a billiard table out in the country, in my garden. I did not wish to paint anything realistic or even descriptive. There is always an idea behind each of my paintings. It’s the idea that interests me, not the description’ (quoted in A. Schwarz, op. cit., p. 68).
Fig. 1, Man Ray, La Fortune I, 1938, oil on canvas, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
Fig. 2, Man Ray, Imaginary Portrait of D. A. F. de Sade II, 1940, oil on canvas, Private Collection
Fig. 3, Man Ray, Soleil de nuit; Abandoned Playground, 1943, oil on canvas, Private Collection
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