Lot 8
  • 8

Man Ray

4,000,000 - 6,000,000 USD
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  • Man Ray
  • Promenade
  • Signed MAN RAY and dated JAN 1916 (lower right), titled PROMENADE (lower left)
  • Oil on canvas
  • 39 3/8 by 31 1/2 in.
  • 100 by 80 cm


Dr. & Mrs. Paul Wescher, Santa Monica (acquired from the artist circa 1948)

Mary Stothart-Wescher, Santa Monica (sale: Christie's, New York, May 19, 1978, lot 29)

Galerie Tarica, Paris (acquired at the above sale)

Aquired from the above by the present owners


New York, The Anderson Galleries, The Forum Exhibition of Modern American Painters, 1916, no. 38 (as Invention – Promenade)

New York, The Daniel Gallery, Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings by Man Ray, 1916-17, no. 3 (as Promenade)

London, New Burlington Galleries, The International Surrealist Exhibition, 1936, no. 308

Possibly Paris, Jeu de Paume, Origines et développement de l'art international indépendant, 1937

London, Institute of Contemporary Arts, An Exhibition, Retrospective and Prospective of the works of Man Ray, 1959, no. 11

Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Man Ray, 1966, no. 19 (incorrectly dated as 1915 and correctly dated to 1916 in the Addenda and Errata)

New York, The New York Cultural Center, Man Ray, Inventor / Painter / Poet, 1974-75, no. 16 (incorrectly dated as 1915)

London, The Institute of Contemporary Arts, Man Ray, 1975, no. 14 (incorrectly dated as 1915)

Washington, D.C., National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution; Los Angeles, The Museum of Contemporary Art; Houston, The Menil Collection; Philadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Perpetual Motif, The Art of Man Ray, 1988-90, fig. 50, p. 65, illustrated in color (incorrectly dated as 1915), p. 122, illustrated (in photograph)

Berlin, Martin-Gropius-Bau and London, Royal Academy of Arts, American Art in the 20th Century, Painting and Sculpture, 1913-1993, 1993, no. 5, illustrated in color

London, Serpentine Gallery, Man Ray, 1995, no number, illustrated

Montclair, Montclair Art Museum; Athens (GA), Georgia Museum of Art; Chicago, Terra Museum of American Art, Conversion to Modernism: The Early Work of Man Ray, 2003, no. 153, p. 144, illustrated in color

London, Tate Modern and Barcelona, Museu Nacional d’Art de Catlunya, Duchamp, Man Ray, Picabia, 2008, fig. 13, p. 20, illustrated in color

New York, The Jewish Museum, Alias Man Ray: The Art of Reinvention, 2009-10, fig. 48, p. 44, illustrated in color

Lugano, Museo d’Arte Lugano, Man Ray, 2011, p. 51, illustrated in color


Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes, Man Ray, Paris, 1929, p. 27, illustrated

Paul Wescher, “Man Ray as Painter,” Magazine of Art, January 1953, pp. 33-34

Herbert Read (ed.), Surrealism, New York, 1971, fig. 84, following p. 208, illustrated

Arturo Schwarz, Man Ray, The Rigour of Imagination, London, 1977, pp. 33, 37, 75, discussed

Exhibition catalogue: Man Ray Photographe, Paris, 1981, introduction by Jean-Hubert Martin, fig. 255, p. 202, illustrated (in photograph of the artist in his Campagne Première studio)

Roland Penrose, Scrap Book, 1900-1981, London, 1981, fig. 164, p. 67, illustrated (in photograph of the London 1936 exhibition)

Jean-Hubert Martin, Brigitte Hermann, Rosalind Krauss, Objets de mon affection, Man Ray, Sculpture et Objets, Catalogue Raisonné, Paris, 1983, pp. 170-71, illustrated (in photograph of the Campagne Première studio)

Man Ray, Selbstporträt / Eine Illustrierte Autobiographie, Munich, 1983, p. 143, illustrated (in photograph)

Man Ray, Self Portrait, Boston, 1988, p. 121, partially illustrated (in photograph)


Excellent condition over all. Original canvas. The stretcher marks are faintly visible around the edges. Under UV, there is a small retouching to the black section at the bottom towards the center.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

Promenade, painted in January 1916, is one of a handful of innovative and ground-breaking compositions Man Ray conceived in the New York period of 1915-16. It was painted less than three years following the Armory Show of 1913 where Man Ray, as a visitor, had taken inspiration from numerous new European art styles presented to the American public for the first time. Promenade, along with Legend of 1916 (Private collection) and the preceding oils Black Widow and Dance, both of 1915, displays a crucial step in Man Ray’s development of his own new style of painting on a flat planar surface in two dimensions, paving the way to his celebrated canvas The Rope Dancer Accompanies Herself With Her Shadows, 1916.


Promenade was first shown at The Forum Exhibition of American Painters, held in March 1916 at the Anderson Galleries in New York. The Forum Exhibition included works by sixteen prominent American painters, including Thomas Hart Benton, Oscar Bluemner, Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley, Stanton MacDonald-Wright, Morgan Russell and Charles Sheeler who would go on to make significant contributions to the history of modern art in America. For the catalogue of this now celebrated show (after the Armory Show of 1913, the first major exhibition to bring American Art to forefront of the avant-garde), Man Ray prepared a statement that outlines his objectives as a painter, a declaration that accurately encapsulates his thinking at the time when Promenade was made. “The creative force and the expressiveness of painting reside materially in the color and texture of pigment,” he wrote, “in the possibilities of form invention and organization, and in the flat plane on which these elements are brought to play.” Man Ray essentially sets forth the argument that, for the concerns of a painter, the plastic elements of a composition—color, form, line, etc.—should be considered equal to if not greater than the subject. “Working on a single plane as the instantaneously visualizing factor, he [the painter] realizes his mind motives and physical sensations in a permanent and universal language of color, texture and form organization. He uncovers the pure plane of expression that has so long been hidden by the glazings of nature imitation, anecdote and the other popular subjects.”


The Forum Exhibition was organized by Willard Huntington Wright, brother of the artist Stanton MacDonald Wright and, arguably, the most intelligent and informed critic writing about the arts at this time. Upon the conclusion of the show, Wright wrote a long review, wherein he praised Man Ray for the rapid development of his work. “From out [of] the work of student days,” Wright noted, “[Man Ray] has come to guide his own star.” He compared the artist’s work to that of Picasso, feeling that, although the famous Spaniard had left his impression on the young American, the result in Man Ray’s work was “of a totally different mental attitude.” This difference, he maintained, was due to the fact that Picasso had always been “a slave of objectivity… while [Man ] Ray’s desire to create was inspired less by nature than by thought.”


This seems to have been a remarkably informed observation, for Man Ray was indeed placing a great deal of thought into what he painted, inspired perhaps, by his meeting with Marcel Duchamp the previous fall. Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase had been the sensation of the Armory Show in 1913. The scandal that erupted around Duchamp’s painting came from its title, which Duchamp inscribed directly on the canvas surface (nudes could lie down, as they had in Classical paintings for centuries, but they could not move, for that was too provocative a notion for a conservative American public to contemplate). It might have been Duchamp’s example that inspired Man Ray to inscribe the title of his painting—PROMENADE—in prominent block letters at the lower-left corner of his composition, in approximately the same position as where it appeared in Duchamp’s painting. Just as Duchamp’s Nude rendered his model in movement, if Man Ray’s title can be taken literally, he, too, intended his figures to be animated, caught during the course of a walk or promenade. A suggestion of movement is provided by the central figure, whose limbs, despite their pronounced degree of stylization, give the appearance of extension and retraction, as if to provide the suggestion of a casual forward advance.


Upon close examination of the walking figures in Promenade, the individual forms by which they are composed appear to visually overlap, a technique that Man Ray may have derived from his years of working for a map-and-atlas publisher in New York, where translucent gels were used to indicate changes in color. He may also have been influenced by his father’s profession as a tailor, for the family home in Brooklyn, New York, was filled with fabric samples and patterns strewn about the floor of the apartment where he grew up. The technique of translucency and overlap was the foundation of many of the artist’s paintings in the New York, allowing Man Ray to emphasize the overall flatness of his compositions, a concern that came out of a remarkably early formalist program that he was in the process of developing during these years. In a pamphlet he published in 1916, A Primer in the New Art of Two Dimensions, Man Ray outlined a theory where all the arts—music, literature, dance, architecture, sculpture, and painting—could find a common vehicle of expression on a flat, planar surface. In Promenade, Man Ray seized every opportunity to emphasize the flat surface of his picture plane, a remarkably prescient concern for formalist structure and order that artists and critics would not fully appreciate for some decades.

Throughout his life, Man Ray considered Promenade to be one of his most successful artistic compositions, for he seized the opportunity to replicate it on a number of occasions, particularly after he moved to Hollywood in 1940. Not only was the painting preceded by a small gouache study from 1915, but it was followed by three additional versions, painted in 1941 (Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven), 1948 and 1959.

Sotheby's would like to thank Andrew Strauss & Francis M. Naumann, who provided the cataloguing and wrote the entry for the present work.