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The Rug
Signed Man Ray and dated -14 (lower left); signed again, titled THE RUG and dated 1914 (on the reverse)
Oil on canvas
18⅜ by 20⅝ in.
46.8 by 52.4 cm
Painted in Ridgefield, New Jersey in 1914.

Galleria Il Fauno (Luciano Anselmino), Turin (acquired from the artist in 1974)
Studio Marconi (Giorgio Marconi), Milan
Private Collection, Turin (and sold: Christie's, London, December 9, 1999, lot 367)
Fiona & Michael Scharf, New York (acquired at the above sale and sold: Christie's, New York, May 14, 2019, lot 394)
Private Collection

New York, Montross Gallery, Exhibition of Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, 1915, no. 47
Pasadena, The Pasadena Art Institute, Retrospective Exhibition, 1913–1944: Paintings, Drawings,
Watercolors, Photographs by Man Ray, 1944, no. 8
Princeton, Princeton University Art Museum, Man Ray, 1963, no. 1
Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Man Ray, 1966, no. 12, illustrated in the catalogue
Rome, Galleria Il Collezionista d’Arte Contemporanea, Man Ray, opere 1914–1973, 1973, illustrated in color in the catalogue
New York, New York Cultural Center, Man Ray: Inventor, Painter, Poet, 1974–75, no. 8
London, Institute of Contemporary Arts, Man Ray, 1975, no. 7
Rome, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Man Ray: L’occhio e il suo doppio: dipinti, collages, disegni, invenzioni fotografiche, oggetti d’affezione, libri, cinema, 1975, no. 17, illustrated in the catalogue
Turin, Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Man Ray, La costruzione dei sensi, 1995–96, illustrated in color in the catalogue
Nice, Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain, Man Ray. Rétrospective, 1912–1976, 1997, illustrated in color in the catalogue
Montclair, Montclair Art Museum; Athens, Georgia Museum of Art & Chicago, Terra Museum of American Art, Conversion to Modernism: The Early Work of Man Ray, 2003–04, no. 119, illustrated in color in the catalogue
New York, Di Donna Galleries, Enigma & Desire: Man Ray Paintings, 2019, illustrated in color in the catalogue

Lara Vinca Masini, Man Ray, Florence, 1974, illustrated in color
Roland Penrose, Man Ray, London, 1975, p. 37, illustrated p. 39
Karin Anhold Rabbito, "Man Ray in Quest of Modernism" in Rutgers Art Review, vol. 2, January 1981, illustrated p. 62
Francis M. Naumann, "Man Ray and America: The New York and Ridgefield Years: 1907–1921," Ph.D. dissertation, Graduate Center of the City University of New York, 1988, pp. 171 & 120, illustrated p. 765

The entangled figures Man Ray depicted in this painting were likely meant to represent himself and his wife, Adon Lacroix, a Belgian painter and poet whom he had married on May 3, 1914. We know that she played the guitar, but Man Ray may have included this instrument to signify more than his affection for his wife. He possibly intended to allude to the union of painting and music, a theme that many artists who painted in an abstract style evoked in this period, reasoning that if music could be understood and enjoyed without a specific subject, why not painting? The shape of the reclining figure in the foreground is articulated to echo the profile of the distant mountain range, a repetition of form that might have contributed to the painting’s title, The Rug, for the overall effect is not dissimilar to the decorative patterns found in Native American weavings or Persian rugs. Indeed, in having selected this title, Man Ray may have intended a reference to former president Theodore Roosevelt’s review of the Armory Show in 1913, where he infamously compared Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase (1912; Philadelphia Museum of Art) to a Navajo rug.

The Rug was painted when Man Ray was developing a complex formalist program that he published in the form of a small booklet in 1916 called A Primer of the New Art of Two Dimensions. There he proposed that all the arts—not only painting, sculpture, and architecture, but also dance, literature, and music—could be unified if their individual modes of expression were reduced to the flat plane. Man Ray was so taken by this theory that when his works were hung in the Daniel Gallery in 1915 (The Rug likely being among them), he insisted that sheets of cheesecloth be stretched between his pictures, so as to give the impression that they—like Renaissance frescoes—were painted directly on the gallery’s flat walls.

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