The following essays were written by Francis M. Naumann and Gail Stavitsky for the illustrated catalogue Conversion to Modernism -- The Early Work of Man Ray, ISBN 0-8135-3147-0, which accompanied a February 16 - August 3, 2003 exhibition at The Montclair Art Museum. The essays are reprinted with permission of the Montclair Art Museum and without illustrations. If you have questions or comments regarding the essays, or wish to purchase a copy of the catalogue, please contact the Montclair Art Museum directly through either this phone number or web address:


"Conversion to Modernism"

by Francis M. Naumann



The Art of Painting in Two Dimensions, Part 2 : The Paintings, Drawings, Watercolors, and Collages of 1916


For Man Ray, the new year could not have begun on a more positive note. In January, Wright's long review of his show at the Daniel Gallery appeared, singling out the burgeoning young artist from among his fellow painters as one of the more promising new talents to emerge during the current gallery season.[1] We will probably never know exactly what Man Ray thought of Wright's criticism, though years later he would describe the author as "a very intellectual critic."[2] We do know, however, that shortly after Wright's review appeared, Man Ray "headed toward organization," just as the critic had advised in the closing remarks of his review. During the course of 1916, the artist further developed and refined the theory of formalist organization he had composed for John Weichsel, which the critic reprinted in his article (see document A). Man Ray would expand this text into a complex theoretical tract, which, as we shall see, touched upon some of the same concerns propounded by Wright in his various writings on aesthetics. Meanwhile, Wright's comment that the artist's work appeared to be in a continuous state of process - that there was "nothing final about any one of his pictures" - would prove to be a remarkably astute observation.

In January, Man Ray painted Promenade (fig. 153), a large painting based on the small gouache study he had completed just a few months earlier (fig. 148). The finished canvas is little more than a straightforward mechanical enlargement of the original image, with only minor alterations made to color and form. When executing the finished painting, Man Ray did not exercise the option of completely rearranging or reworking the composition, as painters often did. Once he had determined the final configuration of his subject, the painting was - theoretically - finished. The acceptance and employment of such an overtly mechanical procedure - one, perhaps, garnered through his familiarity with the technical aspects of photography - would provide the basis for the artist's occasional duplication of a given image in a variety of media and, in later years, enable him to issue editions and freely produce replicas of various paintings and sculptures whenever demand necessitated.

When Wright wrote that Man Ray's paintings were still evolving, he probably meant that, based on the works he had seen in the Daniel exhibition, Man Ray's ideas about painting appeared in a state of flux, moving toward what he had hoped would represent a solution to various aesthetic problems he had perceived. As we shall see, however, before the year was out, this formal evolution would take Man Ray in a direction the critic would find thoroughly disappointing. For the time being, Wright considered Man Ray's paintings of sufficient merit to feature them with the work of sixteen other artists in the celebrated Forum Exhibition of Modern American Painters, held at the Anderson Galleries in New York during the month of March 1916.[3]

The Forum Exhibition was to include only the work of important American modernists, with the intent, as the organizers stated in the accompanying catalogue, of turning attention away from European art in order to "concentrate on the excellent work being done in America." Most of the artists selected were then working in an essentially abstract, or at least a semi-abstract, mode, and each was given an opportunity to explain his or her work in a catalogue statement, which was to be accompanied by a reproduction of one painting. (In spite of Wright's lack of regard for the picture, Man Ray's Dance [fig. 145] was reproduced.) As might be expected, the main theme of each statement centered around the argument of abstraction versus representation, with most of the artists agreeing that the significance of plastic elements of composition - color, form, line, etc. - was equal to or even greater than that of the subject. Man Ray echoed this position in his statement (quoted in full below), but, unlike the others, he placed an added emphasis on the flat planar surface, which, along with color, texture, and organization of form, he considered an absolute quality shared by the great paintings of all time:


Throughout time painting has alternately been put to the service of the church, the state, arms, individual patronage, nature appreciation, scientific phenomena, anecdote and decoration.
But all the marvelous works that have been painted, whatever the sources of inspiration, still live for us because of absolute qualities they possess in common.
The creative force and the expressiveness of painting reside materially in the color and texture of pigment, in the possibilities of form invention and organization, and in the flat plane on which these elements are brought to play.
The artist is concerned solely with linking these absolute qualities directly to his wit, imagination and experience, without the go-between of a "subject." Working on a single plane as the instantaneously visualizing factor, he 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.
Accordingly the artist's work is to be measured by the vitality, the invention and the definiteness and conviction of purpose within its own medium.


Man Ray was represented in the exhibition by ten paintings and three drawings. Among the paintings included were The Village (probably fig. 83), Dance (fig. 145, here still called "Invention-Dance"), Black Widow (fig. 146, which still went by the title "Invention-Nativity"), and the large version of Promenade (fig. 153). Artists were asked to price their work, for everything in the exhibition was supposed to be available for sale. Man Ray gave most of his paintings fairly modest prices, ranging from one hundred dollars for still lifes to four hundred for Dance and six hundred for Promenade. Black Widow, however, was listed at one thousand dollars, an enormous price in those days, but one probably meant to reflect the inordinate size of the painting. [4]

Despite the fact that each artist was given approximately the same amount of wall space, Man Ray was upset when he discovered that his work was hung off to one side and hidden in a corner. Nevertheless, Stieglitz, who had attended the opening of the exhibition, not only noticed his work but praised it highly, which, Man Ray later recalled, gave him a great deal of comfort. Standing in front of Black Widow, he told Man Ray that he had understood "the hermaphroditic significance of the work."[5] In fact, Man Ray later acknowledged that the dominant figure in the painting could be that of a man or a woman. Whatever its sexual implications, to the general public this large anthropomorphic being in the center of the composition would appear as if "steamrolled" into position, squashed, along with the various elements in its immediate surroundings, onto the flat surface plane of the painting. These "depth-defying" characteristics - equaled in intensity only by other examples of Man Ray's work included in this exhibition - were precisely the qualities that continued to attract Wright's enthusiastic regard for the work of this young painter.

Even though Man Ray said his work was displayed in a corner of the gallery, in a cartoon that appeared in The World Magazine (fig. 154), visitors to the Forum Exhibition are depicted viewing his painting Dance as if it hung "on-line," that is, along the same line of sight as other paintings in the exhibition. Although no artist was singled out in the accompanying review, the critic did note that "each painter was a law unto himself, and not a single picture in the lot was an illustration of any person, place or thing." This anonymous critic ended his review with a remarkably insightful observation about the future course of modern art: "Above all," he wrote, "it [the Forum Exhibition] stimulated the interest of artists, critics and the public alike by demonstrating the essentially decorative quality of modern painting, in its scientific use of pure color to achieve deeper and more subtle emotional expression, in place of a conventionalized, superficial appearance of reality."[6]

In April, Willard Huntington Wright published a long review of the Forum Exhibition, wherein he provided a critical appraisal of each of the seventeen artists who were included in the show.[7] Having already expressed some regret in an earlier essay for his adverse criticism of Man Ray, in this review he found the work more fully resolved and matured. "From out [of] the work of student days," Wright noted, "[Man Ray] has come to guide his own star." He again 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 Ray's desire to create was inspired less by nature than by thought." Then, perhaps with information gleaned from Man Ray's catalogue statement or from conversations with the artist, Wright proceeded to discuss the work in terms of Man Ray's preoccupation with flatness in painting:


Ray believes that painting, being done on a two-dimensional surface, should satisfy itself with this flat restraint; and he has set himself to beautify his canvas even more diligently than if he were a sculptor. That he has penetrated far into the fundamental problems of formal order in two dimensions is undeniable. That he has achieved much on the way is quite as evident.


The critic then concluded his review by reversing his former opinion concerning the unfinished or unresolved appearance of the artist's earlier work. "[Man Ray's] expression thus far is not in advance of his technical ability," he wrote, "and his very approximation toward a complete finish gives his work an appearance of finality."

In the months following this important exhibition, Man Ray continued in earnest to pursue the ultimate expression in the art of two dimensions. In early April, he wrote to the painter and collector Hamilton Easter Field, inquiring about an "Amberwax" preparation that reportedly produced a nonglossy finish, an effect he had been trying to achieve in his own work for a number of years; in order to accentuate the flat surface of his canvases, he wanted to duplicate the generally matte and textural appearance of fresco.[8] These technical considerations were important to the formalist program Man Ray was in the process of implementing, a theoretical program that not only influenced his exploration of various techniques but would even determine his choice of subject. Man Ray outlined the basic principles of this theory in a small but important hand-printed booklet, privately published in 1916 under the title A Primer of the New Art of Two Dimensions (fig. 155).[9]

In part, the text for Man Ray's treatise was based on the statement he had prepared the previous year for Weichsel's article on his work (see document A). But here - with the help of a diagram that appears on the last page of the booklet - he more clearly establishes a common basis for all the arts by demonstrating that their various modes of expression all possess the potential for reduction on a flat surface. He identifies painting, sculpture, and architecture as the "static arts," for they can be understood in a single viewing and in an instant of time, while music, literature, and dance are classified as "dynamic arts," for they require the passage of time for full comprehension. Each of these arts is then analyzed individually, with the intent of establishing their equivalent form in two dimensions. The artist attempts to convince his audience that these parallel states actually exist, subjecting his reader to some rather tenuous interpolations, especially in the case of the dynamic arts. Music, for example, is said to originate from contact points on instruments, which are recorded as musical notation on flat sheets of paper. Literature is similarly interpreted, as the form of words in a given arrangement.

The parallel for dance in the static plane is established with greater difficulty. According to the artist, rhythm is the common element, for it lends unity to the temporal components of dance, just as it establishes a relationship between static forms on a two-dimensional surface. The static arts are then individually analyzed with the same intent. Architecture becomes adaptable to the two-dimensional plane through proportion (presumably he means through plan and elevation drawings), while sculpture finds its planar equivalent in its ability to create light and shadow, which are plastic values that can be expressed in two dimensions.

Finally, with painting - Man Ray's primary medium of expression - we are presented with the basic tenets of a remarkably prescient formalist theory, one that contains the seeds of a critical approach that would not be fully explored in American art for some forty years, not until the so-called second generation of formalist critics applied their analysis to the paintings of the Abstract Expressionists in the 1940s and 1950s. The three basic tenets of formalism espoused by these critics can be summarized as follows: (1) primary interest in the structural order of a work of art; (2) purity of the medium; and (3) integrity of the picture plane. All three of these concerns are either directly stated or implied in Man Ray's writings. His interest in structural order, however, was more clearly expressed in the statement he prepared for the Forum Exhibition (quoted earlier), in which he explicitly stated that the creative force in an artist's work relies on, besides color and texture, the invention and organization of form on the picture surface, or, as he referred to it, "the flat plane." In the Primer, he notes again that it is the organization of points, lines, form, and rhythm on the flat plane that gives the arts their dynamic quality. As for the purity of the medium and the integrity of the picture, Man Ray stresses the importance of color and texture in making the viewer conscious of a painting's material quality, which he notes can be "detached from its representative function and cultivated in itself." This is an important point, for he goes on to say that the desire for realism in painting can be satisfied by "a parallel realization in the material itself."

For precedents to the Primer, we can search in vain through the publications of contemporary critics and aestheticians who were noted for their emphasis on form in the interpretation of a work of art - particularly the Englishmen Clive Bell and Roger Fry - to find theories of formalism that are as precise and conclusive as Man Ray's. Although his reading of these sources undoubtedly influenced his thinking, we must turn to the technical manuals of design and composition in order to find an immediate precedent. Most important were the writings of Denman Ross and Arthur Wesley Dow, especially the latter's Composition (1913), a book that influenced a host of American painters, particularly Max Weber and Georgia O'Keeffe.[10] Both of these writers isolated the plastic components of design - line, texture, color - and demonstrated how they could be incorporated into a composition through the use of harmony, balance, and rhythm. In an article that appeared in 1915, Dow noted that great pictures and artifacts of all cultures and in all periods of history shared the common feature of good design; in another, published in 1917, he stated that the primary concern of the modern artist was, among other things, to find "a common basis for all the visual arts."[11] Other than occasionally evoking the musical metaphor, however, neither Ross nor Dow attempted to establish a parallel between music and painting.

But earlier books published in America did. George Lansing Raymond's The Genesis of Art-Form (1893) is now largely forgotten, but its lengthy subtitle would certainly have been of interest to Man Ray: An Essay in Comparative Aesthetics, Showing the Identity of the Sources, Methods, and Effects of Composition in Music, Poetry, Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture.[12] Except for dance, all the art forms Man Ray considered are fully analyzed in this volume, and Raymond demonstrates that they share common principles of formal organization. No matter how close the similarities of approach, however, no theorist before Man Ray (as far as this author can determine) so emphatically established the flat plane as a common factor in the unity of the arts.

What Man Ray's friends and fellow painters thought of his theories is unknown. (In his autobiography, the artist himself either forgot about the Primer or intentionally left it out of an otherwise detailed account of his activities in these years.) We can be relatively certain, though, that at least one prominent critic would not have approved. In The Creative Will, which appeared late in 1916, Willard Huntington Wright included a note that was, without doubt, intended to dismiss the ideas outlined in treatises such as Man Ray's. "The numerous attempts which have been made to synthesize the arts have been the outgrowth of a vague realization that the aesthetic fundamentals of all the arts are identical," he wrote. "Their failure has not been due to any inherent impossibility of unifying different stimuli so as to produce an intensity of reaction, but to the fact that the arts as yet are not understood with sufficient precision by any one man. Not until a definite rationale has been established, embodying every phase, complexity and variation of the different arts, will such a synthesis succeed."[13]

Of course, if we are willing to accept the basic premise put forth in Man Ray's treatise - that the static and dynamic arts could attain unity through a common vehicle of expression, namely, "the flat plane" - then it could be argued that Man Ray had indeed discovered the definite rationale Wright claimed was lacking and that, consequently, he had succeeded in attaining the desired synthesis. Whether we agree or disagree with Man Ray's theories, the artist proceeded to put them into practice by selecting the subjects for his paintings and drawings from the three separate subdivisions he had established for the dynamic arts: dance (as in his 1915 painting by that title: fig. 145), literature (as in his many illustrations for poems and plays: figs. 99, 132), and music, a theme which he had already addressed on a number of earlier occasions (figs. 42, 43, 119), and that would increasingly occupy his interests as his work became more and more abstract.

Analogies to music had long been cited in defense of abstraction, reasoning that if music could be appreciated for its balance, harmony, and tonal qualities, why not painting? In 1917 Arthur Wesley Dow isolated the musical analogy as one of the most desired ambitions of the modernists. "Ceasing to make representation a standard but comparing the visual arts with music," Dow said, was one of the most important esthetic issues of the time. [14] Certainly aware of this analogy, Man Ray appears to have arranged the internal elements of his drawn and painted compositions of this period in a balanced and harmonious fashion, as if to draw conscious attention to a parallel with these same qualities in music. In Symphony Orchestra (fig. 156), a large painting from 1916 that is often overlooked in historical evaluations of the artist, there is a very conscious fusion of subject and form, one clearly intended to evoke a metaphor between painting and music.

In Symphony Orchestra, intersecting ovoid forms in the extreme lower right of the painting balance musical notes that seemingly break from their registers and, across the diagonal expanse of the composition, metamorphose into the necks of stringed instruments on the upper left. An overhead view of a piano, fully equipped with keyboard and stool, is represented by the large blue form in the lower left quadrant of the painting, while the entire image is unified by a twisting white shape in the background, undulating in and out of the composition like the theme and variations in a Bach concerto. "Bach moved me because of my own precise training in mechanical subjects," Man Ray recalled years later. "He was a kindred spirit who inspired me to greater efforts in my line."[15] Indeed, the prominent linear elements in this painting are executed with such detail and precision that they almost appear to have been mechanically generated. While the artist's ability to apply the pigment in such an exacting fashion may have been facilitated through his experience with mechanical drawing instruments, which he had learned to use during his employment as a draftsman, the motivation to encapsulate form in this particular fashion may have been inspired by quite another source: his continuing fascination with the art and ideas of Marcel Duchamp.

Although Man Ray had been introduced to Duchamp about a year earlier, it was not until 1916 that the influence of this famous French artist could be seen to have directly affected the development of his work. In Symphony Orchestra, for example, many of the major foreground shapes are outlined by thin copper-colored bands, as if Man Ray had intentionally emulated the lead-and-wire construction used by Duchamp in defining the position of various elements in the lower section of The Large Glass (fig. 157), the masterwork he had begun shortly after his arrival in New York. Even if for some reason Man Ray did not see this work, he surely would have learned about such an unusual method of picture-making by the early months of 1916, either through visits to Duchamp's studio or by attending (or simply reading about) the controversial and highly publicized exhibition of pictures by Duchamp, Jean Crotti, Albert Gleizes, and Jean Metzinger held at the Montross Gallery in April.[16]

This exhibition - dubbed by the press "The Four Musketeers Show" - was one of the first exhibitions in America (or anywhere, for that matter) to emphatically demonstrate that there existed an even more radical approach in the making of art than that offered by the Futurists and Cubists, who were then considered to represent the most extreme forefront of the artistic vanguard. In an interview that was conducted in 1915, Duchamp categorically renounced the foundations of Western art and even criticized the modernists who considered themselves followers of the Cubists: "Now we have a lot of little cubists," he remarked, "monkeys following the motion of the leader without comprehension of their significance."[17] It was during the Montross exhibition that the differences between Duchamp's iconoclastic views and the comparatively conservative position maintained by the Cubists were first brought to the attention of the public, although the press repeatedly stated that only the paintings by Gleizes and Metzinger should be considered serious work. Nevertheless, more astute observers would have been able to see that the work by Duchamp and Crotti represented the most radical and advanced work being done in America at the time, a defiant and nonconformist approach to picture-making that a young artist with anarchist leanings would hardly have overlooked.

At this time Duchamp shared a studio in the Lincoln Arcade Building on Broadway at Sixty-sixth Street with his colleague and compatriot Jean Crotti. When Man Ray first visited their studio - probably in the spring of 1916 - he saw not only Duchamp's unfinished glass panels but "on a small easel," he recalled, "a glass and metal construction by a friend, Jean Crotti."[18] This work can be identified as Crotti's Les Forces mécaniques de l'amour en mouvement (fig. 158), a construction that was not shown in the Montross exhibition; Crotti had specially set it up for viewing in his studio during the time of his show, in order to display the quality of its transparency to an interviewer.[19]

Like Duchamp's glass panels - which Man Ray described as "covered with intricate patterns laid out in fine lead wires" - Crotti's work consisted of a series of mechanically inspired forms affixed to a glass surface by a system of rigid wire encasements. But unlike Duchamp's work, the prominent circular shapes in Crotti's construction are brightly colored, as are the various foreground elements in Man Ray's Symphony Orchestra (fig. 156). Moreover, Crotti's glass panel was mounted against the face of a shallow rectangular box, which contained a grouping of metal rods that could be seen through certain unpainted passages in the glass. The flat, non-textural shapes in Man Ray's painting produce a similar effect, for they appear as if held in suspension on the surface of a transparent plane, behind which can be seen the simplified, curving shapes in the background, suggesting, as one critic recently remarked, "the relationship between a large, visually diverse orchestra and its single, unifying musical expression."[20]

No matter how it is interpreted, the background in Symphony Orchestra was clearly intended to function in response to the musical analogy. But the background of a painting could not always be so easily rationalized within the context of a totally flat, two-dimensional schema, as we saw earlier with the painting Cut Out (fig. 149), where the background was literally excised from the composition. Man Ray probably learned of an alternative solution to the treatment of background space through his association with Duchamp, for the issue had concerned the Frenchman for a number of years - but for very different reasons. In part, Duchamp wished to eliminate the immediate visual field surrounding the various elements portrayed on the Large Glass for the purpose of alluding to the existence of a fourth dimension. Years later he explained his rationale to an interviewer in terms that might not have been very different from the way he would have explained it to Man Ray in 1916:


Anything that has three-dimensional form is the projection in our world from a four-dimensional world, and my Bride, for example, would be a three-dimensional projection of a four-dimensional bride. All right. Then, since it's on the glass it's flat, and so my Bride is a two-dimensional representation of a three-dimensional Bride, who also would be a four-dimensional projection on a three-dimensional world of the Bride.[ 21]


Duchamp might also have added some information as to how this projection could more easily be explained through the metaphor of shadows, an idea that he picked up a few years earlier from a book on the fourth dimension: "The shadow cast by a 4-dimensional figure on our space is a 3-dimensional shadow."[22]

Even if Man Ray did not completely understand all this talk of the fourth dimension and shadows, he must have realized that he and his French companion were working independently on ideas of mutual interest, however differently they might have put them to use. By 1916 the idea of shadows figured prominently in Man Ray's obsession with the art of two dimensions. In what is rightly regarded as his most important painting of these years, The Rope Dancer Accompanies Herself with Her Shadows (fig. 159), the two-dimensional images cast by the rope dancer are essentially the subject of this picture. Moreover, all the figurative details in this image (including the shadows) are set against the surface of gray-white background, creating an illusion not unlike the transparent effect of glass, especially when the painting is hung on a solid white wall.

In his autobiography, Man Ray revealed the technique employed in the design of this picture, which he began shortly after moving into his studio on Lexington Avenue late in 1915.[23] Here the artist provides a step-by-step account of the procedure that was followed in the construction of this important painting:


The subject was a rope dancer I had seen in a vaudeville show. I began by making sketches of various positions of the acrobatic forms, each on a different sheet of spectrum - colored paper, with the idea of suggesting movement not only in the drawing but by a transition from one color to another. I cut these out and arranged the forms into sequences before I began the final painting. After several changes in my composition I was less and less satisfied. It looked too decorative and might have served as a curtain for the theater. Then my eyes turned to the pieces of colored paper that had fallen to the floor. They made an abstract pattern that might have been the shadows of the dancer or an architectural subject, according to the trend of one's imagination if he were looking for a representative motive. I played with these, then saw the painting as it should be carried out. Scrapping the original forms of the dancer, I set to work on the canvas, laying in large areas of pure color in the form of the spaces that had been left outside the original drawings of the dancer. No attempt was made to establish a color harmony; it was red against blue, purple against yellow, green versus orange, with an effect of maximum contrast. The color was laid on with precision, yet lavishly-in fact, the stock of colors was entirely depleted. When finished, I wrote the legend along the bottom of the canvas: The Rope Dancer Accompanies Herself with Her Shadows.[24]


Doubtlessly with the intent of enlivening the narrative, the artist emphasized the sense of discovery that led to the creation of this picture, implying that his decision to use the cutout, formerly discarded scraps of paper as the very basis for the composition came to him literally in the form of an afterthought. We know from examples of his prior work that the negative shapes surrounding figurative groupings (such as in Promenade [fig. 153]) and in the background of his paintings (Symphony Orchestra [fig. 156], Cut Out [fig. 149]) were formalist concerns of increasing importance in his continuing efforts to reconcile the inherent dichotomy between a painting's flat surface and the illusionism its painted forms naturally generate. In fact, when the Museum of Modern Art acquired The Rope Dancer in 1954, the artist was asked to complete a questionnaire, providing information concerning this picture and its production. Here, in terms similar to those expressed in his autobiography, Man Ray again described the making of this picture, but with several noteworthy differences: the elements of chance and accidental discovery are absent, and, even more revealing of his motives, the artist concluded his description by establishing a formal connection between this painting and his earlier work:


First I made drawings for three positions of a ballet dancer. Then enlarged them on different colored papers. The forms were cut out of these - and destroyed. The remaining pieces of colored paper were used as the final forms to create an abstract effect, and a vibration of large masses of color. The whole was painted with specially shaped palette knives. The theme of the ballet dancer was added afterwards to recall the original idea (at top), with serpentine lines connecting the various surfaces. I had already made several paintings in which I emphasized the surrounding spaces, making them as important as the original forms - the whole producing a more abstract - or invented - composition.[25]


While the subject of a tightrope walker, or rope dancer, had well-established historical precedents in both art and literature - where the precariously balanced figure usually symbolized man's struggle for existence - Man Ray acknowledged that the inspiration for this subject came from a vaudeville performance he had attended.[26] Although the artist probably did destroy the specific drawing that was used in determining the final configuration of the rope dancer and her shadows, as he claimed in his autobiographical account, at least one preliminary sketch for this subject survives (fig. 160), as well as an ink drawing entitled Ballet-Silhouette (fig. 161), where the forms of the dancer and her surrounding shadows are recalled with mechanical precision.

The brush-and-ink sketch records the position of two or three dancers, the basic shapes of their bodies and skirts rendered quickly and expressionistically. By contrast, a more accurate and precise conception of the dancers and their accompanying shadows is provided in Ballet-Silhouette, a drawing showing three figures in animated positions, as if in response to the presence of a musical stimulus, symbolized by the decorative volute emerging from the neck of a stringed instrument on the lower right register of the drawing. With the combined theme of music and dance, Man Ray brought together at least two of the three subdivisions he had established for the dynamic arts. Although the subject of music is not very prominently displayed in the finished painting, this drawing provides an indication that the theme must have been a part of its original conception.

Until recently, Ballet-Silhouette was presumed to be a preliminary study for the painting; we now know that it was made after the Rope Dancer was completed.[27] Nevertheless, a similar drawing, or at least one containing many of the same details - a work the artist said he "scrapped" or "destroyed" - must have been employed in the construction of the finished picture. In Ballet-Silhouette, the three dark ovoid shapes behind the dancers are clearly meant to represent their shadows (as produced by the beam of a circular spotlight). If we can take the liberty of visually excising these figures from their immediate environment, then the remaining negative material would literally represent the shadows of the dancers. If these shapes were then transferred to the surface of the painting, they would naturally retain certain details that reflect the outer contours of the original dancers. Indeed, such details can be detected in the six brightly colored shapes that represent the areas of shadow in the finished painting (fig. 159): a number of rectangular indentations reflect the projections of the dancers' arms and legs; the truncated, cylindrical form enclosed within the foremost yellow shape represents the silhouette of a dancer's head, while its sharp, irregular periphery appears to have been determined by the starched and fanshaped contours of several dancers' tutus.

According to the account Man Ray provided for the Museum of Modern Art, it was only after he had painted the dancer's "shadows" that he decided to include the form of the dancer herself. Thus, at the top of the composition he painted a sharp, almost crystalline form comprised of three separate dancers, joined in a single point at the waist, making it clear that these three translucent, superimposed forms were meant to represent multiple readings of the same figure. From this single point emanate three lines that connect the dancer to her "shadows" below. (The ends of three more lines, or ropes, as they might have been envisioned, are held in the dancers' hands.) With these connecting cords established, the dancer literally accompanies her shadows - in the fashion of an individual accompanying his or her dog on a leash, a visual image that may have provided the artist with a suggestion for the lengthy, narrative title that he boldly inscribed across the base of the painting: "I gave the picture an almost literal," he said, "if not literary title!"[28]

Much has been made of the similarities between this painting and the Large Glass (fig. 157), particularly the lower portion of Duchamp's work, where the Nine Malic Moulds, or "Bachelors," are portrayed. There are indeed formal similarities in the positioning of various elements; the ropes descending from the dancer do mimic the so-called capillary tubes that radiate from the Bachelors in the Large Glass. And the placement of the female element in the uppermost extreme of Man Ray's painting does resemble the general layout of Duchamp's masterpiece, where the Bride and related apparatus are confined to the upper panel. Authors have even recognized the similarities between the titles of the two works, noting that Man Ray inscribed his directly on the surface of the painting, just as Duchamp had done on several occasions, particularly his famous Nude Descending a Staircase, as well as both versions of the Chocolate Grinder.

More than the similarities between these two works, however, their differences reveal the formal meaning and importance of Man Ray's painting. Unlike Duchamp, Man Ray was not concerned with recording his subject in an accurate, perspectivally correct fashion. Even the rope dancer is rendered as a transparent being, portrayed in flat, multiple images against the surface of the painting, with only a white aura to help distinguish her from the planar background whose coloration she shares. Moreover, Man Ray might have reasoned that if Duchamp were right and four-dimensional figures did cast three-dimensional shadows, then by extension, when it came to painting on an opaque surface (rather than on the surface of glass), a three-dimensional object (the actual rope dancer) would naturally cast a two-dimensional shadow. And that is exactly what he portrayed. Since the shadows of the rope dancer were derived from abstract, irregularly cut shapes of scrap paper, Man Ray's painting can be considered to represent an illusion of flatness - a pseudo-collage, or what at least one author described as a trompe l'oeil rendition of collage. [29] In other words, rather than follow the customary procedure of Synthetic Cubism - whereby the artist creates an image that, once finished, resembles the general appearance of a collage or assemblage - Man Ray followed the procedure in essentially the reverse order, using an actual collage to determine the final configuration of his painted image. By directly translating the collage medium in paint, he produced - perhaps unwittingly - one of the most extreme expressions that can be imaged in the art of two dimensions. As in the works of Jasper Johns, who, some fifty years later, would select subjects to paint that were by their very nature inherently flat, the prominent shapes in Man Ray's painting were derived from the design of an object that was by its very nature virtually without volume or mass: a flat, pasted paper collage.

Man Ray's experimentation with the spectrum-colored papers that were used in the making of The Rope Dancer provided not only the inspiration but also the modus operandi for an entire series of collages from this period (fig. 162), each of which was supposed to serve as a preparatory study for a larger work in oil (although only one actually did: fig. 166). The series consisted of ten separate collages, the individual panels of which were prepared from carefully cut pieces of colored construction paper pasted onto the surface of white cardboard. For their first installation, at the Daniel Gallery in 1919, each collage was separately framed and hinged onto a revolving support, so that the entire ensemble could be spun around like a revolving door - hence the title Man Ray gave to the entire series: The Revolving Doors.

Each panel was assigned a somewhat unusual though generally descriptive title. In addition, he composed a series of what he himself described as "long" and "rambling" texts to accompany each collage. On occasion insightful, most of these written statements are actually rather abstruse analyses of the individual images (see document B). Both the titles and the texts were most likely inspired by their finished forms (and not the other way around), a method the artist frequently employed. Thus, the title for the first in the series, Mime, was probably suggested by its general anthropomorphic shape, which, with the vertical spectral-colored striations and outstretched arm-like forms, resembles a mute clown, or mime. A number of authors have been quick to suggest that all ten of the panels in this series were based on recognizable imagery, stretching their analysis beyond credibility in an attempt to relate the essentially abstract shapes of each collage with the image suggested by its title. This has caused certain writers to find a dirigible in Long Distance; an iconic bird confronting a stick figure in Legend; male and female sexual organs in Jeune Fille; a parrot or hawk in Shadows (fig. 164); a man, rake, and troughs in Concrete Mixer (fig. 165); and a harlequin in The Dragonfly.[30] While a number of these observations may be perfectly legitimate - such as finding stringed instruments in the shapes of Orchestra (fig. 163) - other panels were clearly conceived on a more abstract basis. Even the authors cited above, for example, were forced to describe the fourth collage in this series, The Meeting, in exclusively abstract terms: "The Meeting," they wrote, "cleverly uses transparency to draw the observer into a game of seeing which form is behind another in an illusionary depth."[31]

The Meeting was based on the drawing he had made a year earlier (fig. 152). In the final collage, three abstract shapes, or "beings," as the artist called them in his accompanying text, are rendered as if they were separate pieces of colored acetate, placed in overlapping positions on an evenly illuminated surface. In places where two or three primary colors overlap, secondary and tertiary colors result, creating the effect of viewing translucent color gels on the surface of a light table (something the artist would have seen or perhaps even worked with himself in his employment as a draftsman). "I traced the forms on the spectrum-colored papers," he later explained, "observing a certain logic in the overlapping of primary colors into secondary ones."[32] Whereas only four of the ten collages accurately produce an illusion of overlapping color planes, the general effect of translucency is suggested by each panel in the series. This effect, considered along with his elaborate system of installation, makes it clear that Man Ray must have intended the white cardboard background of each collage to represent - at least metaphorically - glass.

Shadows (fig. 164), the eighth panel in this series, differs markedly from the other collages. Four separate shapes overlap: one blue, another red, and two yellow. At first, this collage appears to have been constructed in the same way as the other nine panels, but further analysis reveals that the four shapes are determined by a method of projection, and not just of simple overlap as in the other collages. The method is similar to that simulated in his high school drawing of triangles hovering in space and casting their shadows onto curved and geometric surfaces (fig. 13). Here, however, Man Ray has recorded the shadows cast by a French curve (a draftsman's template) held at varying angles above the picture surface. As with the Rope Dancer (fig. 159), he has succeeded in capturing the two-dimensional reflection of a three-dimensional entity. Unlike in the painting, in this collage the object responsible for the shadow is not represented within the pictorial field. Instead, we are presented with the effect of something we cannot see - only a shadow, which by its very nature is without mass. In a theoretical sense, then, this panel is even "flatter" than the other images in the series, for the other collages assimilate the appearance of separate pieces of acetate, which, however thin, still imply a degree of depth through the accumulation or buildup of successive, overlapping layers. Later, Man Ray emphasized the dematerialized effect produced by these images when he described the entire collage series as follows: "The inevitable result is a projection into space," he said, "an equivalent of light."[33] This may appear to be a minor detail, but it is one of which Man Ray was aware. Although he expressed it in rather awkward terms, this point was made clear in the first sentence of an introduction he prepared for The Revolving Doors: "The concern of a period of time often leads to the disappearance of material space" (see document B).

Man Ray began his series of collages in the fall of 1916, shortly after he and Adon Lacroix moved from their Lexington Avenue studio to a smaller but more comfortable apartment on Twenty-sixth Street off Broadway. As he prepared for his second one-person show at the Daniel Gallery, which was scheduled to open in January of 1917, his efforts to create an imagery that best reflected the inherent flatness of a painting's two-dimensional surface appear to have gradually given way to an alternative method: an essentially sculptural technique wherein the viewer's attention would be increasingly directed to a painting's purely physical properties. This effect was achieved through a variety of methods: by the physical buildup of paint, through the application of texture, by creating the illusion of shallow relief, and, in certain instances, by attaching actual two- and three-dimensional objects to the surface of the canvas.

A large untitled ink drawing of this period (fig. 167) appears to represent an intermediary step in this transition. A series of overlapping abstract shapes is rendered with the properties of both opacity and translucency. In the lower center of the composition, a compressed ovoid appears to hover above these irregular shapes at the very position of their confluence. In turn, these shapes then gradually darken as they approach their own extremities, toward the periphery of the drawing's outer format, suggesting that they have attained approximately the same spatial position as the overlapping small opaque ovoid. Thus, as with selected panels from the Revolving Doors series (particularly Shadows, fig. 164), the resultant effect produces the illusion of an abstract image that seems to occupy a relatively compressed though somewhat ambiguous spatial position on both sides of the picture plane: seeming to hover above it and, at other times, appearing to recede into the shallow depths beyond it.

Angular, tapering shapes, similar to those that had formed the basic motif of this drawing, reappear as background elements in an essentially abstract composition that has been known under a number of variant titles: Invention, as it was first called; Painting, as it was renamed in the early 1920s; and The Mime, as it is now known (fig. 168). Only the latter title provides an indication of the possible origin of these angular shapes; they may have been loosely extrapolated from the figure with outstretched arms in Mime, the first panel in the Revolving Doors series (fig. 162). In the painting, however, these shapes exhibit no such overtly figurative associations. Rather than replicate the unarticulated forms and mechanical precision of the collage, the angular shapes in the painting are accentuated by means of diverse textural patterns. Once the location of these various shapes was determined, and before the pigment was allowed to completely dry, the artist added these textural patterns by cutting into or scoring the paint surface with a pointed instrument, as if to suggest that these shapes were fabricated from a variety of materials. In the painting, these impressions appear to have been made with a number of relatively common utensils: a comb, pulled across the paint surface to create a series of parallel and cross-hatched markings; a fork, bounced over the surface of the prominent shape in the central foreground, producing a somewhat irregular pattern of puncture marks; and a palette knife, which was used to apply the paint and, in certain details, to provide emphasis or further definition to the shapes themselves. The darker pigments are applied in such a way as to create the illusion of shadow, an impression that is especially effective when the painting is viewed from a distance. The assertive quality of the textural patterns, then, juxtaposed with the suggestion of a shallow recessional space, produces the general effect of a collage or assemblage, wherein these separate, angular shapes appear to have been affixed to the surface of the rectangular support in the fashion of a relief.

When the painting is examined at a closer range, however, the impression of relief quickly dissipates. The trompe l'oeil effect that was employed in works begun earlier in the year - as in The Rope Dancer (fig. 159) - is here replaced by a more prominent and assertive surface tactility. Indeed, in a number of his paintings of this period, it appears as though Man Ray has intentionally juxtaposed a contradictory or opposing reading of the picture surface. In spite of the illusory details contained in The Mime (fig. 168), for example, it is a painting that would be virtually impossible to physically reconstruct, for it would not be possible to determine the precise spatial positioning of one abstract shape in relation to another. The diagonal line cutting through the upper right quarter of the composition, for example, appears connected to the inner corner of the curved, tapering shape on the right, a form that is clearly rendered as if receding into the background of the painting. At the lowest point where this diagonal line begins (or ends), it forms a near-right-angle alignment with the upper border of the tapering shape, creating the impression that this diagonal was meant to define the edge of an overlapping, frontally positioned translucent plane. This reading is reinforced by the positioning of this diagonal with respect to the prominent central shape, the uppermost reaches of which appear masked or overlapped by the translucent plane. Thus, the illusory qualities of this plane can be seen to function in a physically contradictory manner, simultaneously exhibiting the properties of opacity and translucency. The overall planar frontality of the composition is further reinforced by a pattern of short, light-colored vertical brushstrokes, aligned in uniform succession along the lower border of the composition.

Paradoxical readings of a similar nature contribute to the spatial complexities of another work of this period, Painting with Hand Imprint (fig. 169), which, as the title indicates, includes the impression of a hand dipped into fresh paint and applied to the surface of the canvas. Like the pattern of short, vertical brushstrokes in The Mime, this handprint serves to reinforce the physical tactility and planar surface tension of the painting as a whole. But in this case the hand might also have been intended to represent the artist's signature, just as primitive man placed the mark of his hand on the surface of cave walls in prehistoric times or as American artists of the nineteenth century occasionally signed their paintings by leaving the impression of their fingerprints in the paint surface. For Man Ray, this method of assigning authorship would have seemed especially appropriate, for, even with his limited knowledge of foreign languages, his Belgian-born wife would have made him aware of the fact that in French his first name was phonetically equivalent to the word for hand: main = man. [34] The painting's physical properties are further enhanced by the large light-colored shape in the center of the composition, defined by an exceptionally thick impasto, loosely modulated with a palette knife so as to produce a visibly textured surface. The resultant tactility is formally challenged by the dark-colored, semi-opaque ovoid in the lower left corner - a form whose approximate shape and position were already determined in the untitled ink drawing discussed earlier (fig. 167). But here, as in selected details of The Mime, this shape both covers and reveals those positioned beyond it, exhibiting the properties of both translucency and opacity.

While most of the remaining details in this painting seem to have been generated from purely abstract sources (other than the hand, of course), the coiled, spring-like shape on the upper right appears to have been derived from a similar detail in Picabia's I See in Memory My Dear Udine (Museum of Modern Art, New York), a monumental picture Man Ray would have been familiar with from the time of its first showing in Picabia's second major one-person exhibition at 291 in January of 1915.[35] Even if he missed this painting while on exhibition, the same spring-like shape appears in Picabia's Fille née sans mère [Girl Born without a Mother], a drawing that was published in the June 1915 issue of 291, a magazine with which Man Ray was certainly familiar. In spite of the remarkable precedence of this shape in works by Picabia, it is doubtful that Man Ray would have consciously appropriated such a specific detail from the work of a fellow painter. It is more likely that, in following the example of Picabia's machinist style, he associated shapes of this type (those produced by means of an even, repetitive pattern) with a general notion of mechanical imagery. Rather than allow these details to carry a symbolic significance within the complex structure of the painting as a whole - as did both Picabia and Duchamp - Man Ray has presented this mechanical form in a literal and straightforward fashion, just as unaltered and as bluntly stated as the impression of his hand.

It was probably Man Ray's increasing familiarity with the ideas and work of Duchamp, combined with an unsettled desire to emphasize the innate physicality of a painting's natural two-dimensional surface, that led him to present such a literal display of this machine aesthetic in a painting he originally called Entities, now known by the title Love Fingers (fig. 170). This work is dominated by five sharply defined vertical "entities," stylized mechanical forms derived from the design of tin chimney ventilators that the artist saw on neighboring rooftops from one of the windows in his Twenty-sixth Street studio. In 1915 Duchamp had selected such an item to serve as a readymade, which he inscribed Pulled at Four Pins and gave to one of his friends. If Man Ray was familiar with this work, then, as Arturo Schwarz has noted, this painting may very well have been envisioned as "an indirect homage to Duchamp."[36]

Entities was shown in the company of eight other relatively recent works in Man Ray's second major exhibition at the Daniel Gallery, which opened during the first week of January 1917.[37] The show was accompanied by a small catalogue (fig. 171) that contained a reproduction of the drawing Ballet-Silhouette (fig. 161) and provided a list of the titles assigned to the ten works shown. Included as an insert to this catalogue was a long statement by Adon Lacroix, wherein the poet suggested that the idea for a painting could not be disassociated from its physical makeup and that words devoted to explaining a given work of art lacked the expressive qualities exhibited in the work itself. In its consciously repetitive style, this statement appears to have been composed in emulation of the writing techniques of Gertrude Stein. It begins with a quotation in French from Alex Borg:


...tout était aussi naïf que l'est chez l'enfant la conception simplifiée des richesses de la nature, de son inepuisable diversité de formes et de couleurs lesquelles son perceptibles seulement a l'oeil arrivé a un haut degré de developpement.



Words with meaning or words without meaning, words will be words always. But whether a painting includes a picture or vice versa... a picture includes a painting and a painting includes a picture and one is both and both are one. The pervading subject in everything is the idea. In everything an idea is in existence but like degrees of quality ideas differ in quality. Out of an idea comes everything in existence, no matter what the idea may be. The idea includes the picture painted, the idea comprises the substance itself; color; and from the color - the subject. The idea is, in a word, the backbone of everything existing. It may be one clear, crystallized idea or a chaos of ideas; ideas and matter are one in painting - the one cannot accomplish anything without the other. But words written on paper with ink or pencil, or thrown into space - words will be words always, and their value depends entirely upon the idea. Let someone blunder out incoherent sounds or rather gesticulate instead of having recourse to words; it will be far more expressive, for words have that mild adopted form that will never make them as expressive as the gesture. The hardship in combining successfully both ideas and paint into words is the same as the expression of ideas by words: while by one gesture the artist can say so much, besides leaving so much more to the imagination. Words will be mild in comparison, always.



Along with Entities, most of the works that were shown in this exhibition can be positively identified from the list of titles that was published in the catalogue: Promenade (fig. 153), Mime (fig. 168), Ballet-Silhouette (fig. 161), and Black Widow (fig. 146), here still called "Nativity." But these paintings and drawings drew relatively little notice from visitors to the gallery, particularly in comparison to works that the artist more vaguely identified with the titles "Invention I" and "Invention II," as well as "Portrait I" and "Portrait II." One of the works probably categorized as an invention consisted of nothing more than a rectangular panel that was intentionally hung at an angle in a corner of the exhibition space. When viewers tried to adjust the painting's alignment, because of a second nail affixed to the wall behind the painting, the work insistently swung back like a pendulum to its original position.

Another work - originally categorized as a portrait - was also designed to confound the sensitivities of well-intentioned spectators. Known today as Self Portrait (fig. 172), this mixed-media assemblage was, as the artist later reported, "the butt of much joking." The work consisted of a vertical panel painted with black and aluminum paint, resembling the general shape of a doorway and its opening. Upon the panel were affixed two actual doorbells and a pushbutton, as if to suggest that pushing the button would cause the bells to ring. But such was not the case, for these devices were never connected, causing considerable disappointment among visitors to the exhibition. "They were furious," Man Ray told Arturo Schwarz. "They thought I was a bad electrician. [38] But it was not the artist's intention to set up a simplistic stimulus-and-response demonstration such as one might encounter in a psychological experiment. He only wanted the visitors to his exhibition to assume a more participatory role in their viewing of his artistic productions. As he himself put it: "I simply wished the spectator to take an active part in the creation."[39]

A desire to involve the viewer in the creative process may owe a good deal to Man Ray's conversations with Duchamp, who later carefully outlined a theory wherein he established that an art object could not be considered complete without taking into consideration the role of the spectator.[40] No matter what the motivation may have been, Man Ray's inventions were immediately labeled "humoristic" and flatly dismissed by critics of the exhibition who saw them as evidence that the artist failed to take his own work seriously. Willard Huntington Wright, who earlier in the year had written favorably about the artist, found the humor in these works objectionable: "Ray formerly showed unmistakable signs of talent," he wrote, "but his new work possesses none of his earlier good qualities. Such artificial devices as electric bells, push buttons, gilt paper, daring silk and finger prints, which are plastered about his canvases, do not create any divergency of surface material. In their obviousness they serve only as somewhat humorous distractions."[41] Only the insightful art critic of the New York Sun, Henry McBride, seems to have made a serious attempt to analyze the implications of a spectator's participatory role, even though he felt that the work itself should not actually be touched:


Mr. Ray submits a few "inventions" and portraits in a most arbitrary of modern/manners, so that the would-be lover of his art is compelled to advance at least seven-eighths of the way along the path to meet the artist's intention. In former days it used to be considered enough, nay gracious, to go halfway. But times certainly change.
One of the portraits has some sort of a bell, a real bell, attached to the panel, and below it is fastened a real bell button. All the people who were in the gallery at the time of my visit betrayed, each in his turn, a strong desire to touch the bell button. I felt it myself, but knowing the respect due to serious art, successfully resisted the temptation.
Mr. Ray thus shows that as an artist he has a genuine command over what Bernhard Berenson calls the "tactile values." The art experts of the future may hold that Mr. Ray's "Portrait II" marks as strong an advance in tactile values over the art of Masaccio as Masaccio's art did over Giotto's.[42]


It would seem that the controversy generated over this picture alone would have been enough to have drawn the artist's attention to the seemingly insurmountable gulf that existed between the idea for a picture and any attempt to express this idea in the picture itself, a problem that had already been anticipated in the prophetic catalogue statement prepared by his wife for this exhibition. Yet, in the face of these unavoidable difficulties, the artist continued to emphasize the precedence of a given idea over any technical considerations that might be involved in its actual execution. Such an approach, however, offered certain obstacles. "I didn't realize at that time," the artist later recalled, "that the public, the people, even those who are intelligent, above all things, hate ideas."[43]

Of course, such a conceptually oriented approach marks a break from the formalist concerns that had so thoroughly dominated the artist's earlier work. This sensibility, as we have already indicated, owes a considerable debt to Duchamp, who maintained that ideally the production of a work of art should avoid appealing to purely optical properties, or to the "retinal," as he put it, and that it should instead be a "cerebral" act. These ideas certainly had their effect on the young painter. In an interview conducted later in life, Man Ray explained how his efforts to avoid repetition led to his realization that in the art-making process the mental should take precedence over the visual:


When I first began to paint independently from the schools, I never drank or took dope or anything, but the smell of paint, of turpentine, would intoxicate me the way alcohol would intoxicate others. I loved that smell and it was a voluptuous thing to be able to paint. As a reaction, to avoid complacency and repetition, we began to use our brains, to use the painting medium to express ideas and not just to demonstrate our virtuosity. The Americans couldn't grasp that. [44]


Indeed, the Americans truly could not understand. As might well have been expected, Man Ray's second showing at the Daniel Gallery resulted in no sales whatsoever. His dealer was as bewildered in his efforts to comprehend the new work as were the majority of visitors to the gallery. Moreover, Daniel had problems of overhead to consider, so he naturally attempted to discourage the artist's experimentation. On a regular monthly basis, he even offered to purchase the artist's earlier more figurative, and thus eminently more saleable, work. "But I couldn't go back," Man Ray later explained. "I was finding myself, I was filled with enthusiasm at every new turn my fancy took, and my contrary spirit aiding, I planned new excursions into the unknown."[45] In the years to follow, these excursions would lead Man Ray through artistically uncharted territories to even more adventurous and experimental avenues of artistic expression.



1. Willard Huntington Wright, "Art, Promise, and Failure," Forum 55 , no. 1 (January 1916), pp. 29-42.

2. SP, p.67.

3. The exhibition catalogue included an introductory essay by Willard Huntington Wright, forewords by the exhibition's organizers, and brief statements by each of the artists in the show (The Forum Exhibition of Modern American Painters, Anderson Gallery, March 13-25, 1916). On the historical significance of the Forum Exhibition, see Milton W. Brown, American Painting: From the Armory Show to the Depression (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1955), pp. 65-67; Anne Harrell, The Forum Exhibition: Selections and Additions (Whitney Museum of American Art at Philip Morris, New York, May 18-June 22, 1983), pp. 4-15; and Christopher Knight, "On Native Ground: U.S. Modern," Art in America 71, no. 9 (October 1983), pp. 166-174.

4. A complete checklist of this exhibition with the prices that were assigned for individual works is preserved in the Papers of the Forum Exhibition, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; I am grateful to Anne Harrell for having drawn this list to my attention.

5. Reported in SP p. 68.

6. Anonymous, "The Season's Art Sensation," World Magazine (April 3, 1916), p. 9.

7. Willard Huntington Wright, "The Forum Exhibition," Forum 55, no. 4 (April 1916), pp. 457-471.

8. As he later explained to Arturo Schwarz, Man Ray: The Rigour of Imagination (New York: Rizzoli, 1977), p. 32. Letter from Man Ray to Hamilton Easter Field, April 6, 1916 (Papers of Hamilton Easter Field, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; microfilm roll no. N68-2, frame 40).

9. I am grateful to Professor William Camfield for having alerted me to the existence of this pamphlet in the archives of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. And I owe a further debt of gratitude to Anne d'Harnoncourt and Marge Klein for having arranged for photographs of this important document to be made and sent to me.

10. Dow was Weber's teacher of design at Pratt Institute around the turn of the century, and his theories of composition had a significant influence on the artist's subsequent work (see Alfred Werner, Max Weber [New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1975], pp. 29-31). In the fall of 1914, O'Keeffe studied with Dow at Teachers College, Columbia University; and, as influential as his theories of composition may have been, she later confessed that at the time she could not afford to purchase his book on the subject (see William Innes Homer, Alfred Stieglitz and the American Avant-Garde [Boston: New York Graphic Society, 1977], pp. 235-236). On the influence of Dow's writings among the early critics and theorists of abstraction, see Marianne W. Martin, "Some American Contributions to Early Twentieth-Century Abstraction," Arts 54, no.10 (June 1980), pp. 158-165.

11. Arthur Wesley Dow, "Modernism in Art," American Magazine of Art 8 (January 1917; from a paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the College Art Association, Philadelphia, held in April 1916). See also Dow, "Talks on Appreciation of Art," Delineator, January 1915, pp. 14-15.

12. Published by G. P. Putnam's Sons, New York and London. George Lansing Raymond occupied the chair of oratory and aesthetic criticism at Princeton University from 1880 to 1905. His writings on comparative aesthetics were published in eight separate volumes between 1886 and 1900 (brought together and republished in a uniform edition in 1909). Professor Raymond's theories were provided renewed interest in 1914-1915, upon the publication of a two-volume compilation containing extracts from his most important writings in poetry and aesthetics. See E[dward] A[lden] J[ewell], "Raymond, George Lansing," Dictionary of American Biography, vol. 7 (New York, 1963; original ed. vol. 15, 1935), pp. 407-408.

13. Willard Huntington Wright, "Synthesis of the Arts," note no. 130 in The Creative Will: Studies in the Philosophy and the Syntax of Aesthetics (New York and London: John Lane, 1916), pp. 176-177.

14. Dow, "Modernism in Art," p. 116.

15. SP, p.17.

16. See the catalogue Exhibition of Pictures by Jean Crotti, Marcel Duchamp, Albert Gleizes, Jean Metzinger, Montross Gallery, New York, April 4-22, 1916. For a historical account of the exhibition, see William A. Camfield, "Jean Crotti and Suzanne Duchamp," in William Camfield and Jean-Hubert Martin, eds., TABU DADA: Jean Crotti and Suzanne Duchamp, 1915-1922, (Bern: Kunsthalle; Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1983-1984), pp. 12-15, and Francis M. Naumann, New York Dada, 1915-23 (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1994), pp. 10, 43-44, 101-102.

17. "A Complete Reversal of Art Opinions by Marcel Duchamp," Arts and Decoration 5 (September 1915), p. 428.

18. SP, p. 82.

19. Crotti displayed the work in this fashion for a journalist named Nixola Greenley-Smith, "Cubist Depicts Love in Brass and Glass: More Art in Rubbers Than in Pretty Girl," Evening World (April 4, 1916), p.3.

20. S[teven] N [ash], "Symphony Orchestra," in Steven A. Nash, ed., Albright-Knox Art Gallery: Painting and Sculpture from Antiquity to 1942 (New York: Rizzoli, 1979), p. 532.

21. From an interview with George and Richard Hamilton, "Marcel Duchamp Speaks," BBC broadcast, 1959, quoted in Arturo Schwarz, The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1969; 2d rev. ed., 1970), p. 23.

22. From Duchamp's notes for The Large Glass, ca. 1912-1915, first published in a facsimile edition by Duchamp, La Mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, méme, Paris, 1934; reprinted with an English translation by Arturo Schwarz, ed., Marcel Duchamp: Notes and Projects for the Large Glass (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1969), n. 3, pp. 36f. On Duchamp's interest in the fourth dimension, see Linda Dalrymple Henderson, "Marcel Duchamp and the New Geometries," The Fourth Dimension and Non-Euclidean Geometry in Modern Art (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983), ch. 3, pp. 117-163, and Craig Adcock, Marcel Duchamp's Notes from the Large Glass: An N-Dimensional Analysis (Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1983).

23. The year 1916 is usually given for The Rope Dancer, for that is the date inscribed directly on the canvas (just below the artist's signature in the lower right corner of the painting). In a questionnaire prepared for the Museum of Modern Art, however, Man Ray explained that he actually began this picture in 1915, just after moving from Ridgefield to New York (Artists' Files, Department of Painting and Sculpture, Museum of Modern Art, New York). Although this questionnaire is undated, it was probably filled out in the late fall of 1954, shortly after the museum acquired the painting (see letter from Alfred Barr to Man Ray, August 26, 1954, Barr Archive, Museum of Modern Art, New York).

24. SP, pp. 66-67.

25. Questionnaire, fall 1954 (see n. 23 above).

26. As noted in the same passage from his autobiography cited above (SP, p. 66). On the historical precedents to this theme in German painting of the early twentieth century, see Janice McCullagh, "The Tightrope Walker: An Expressionist Image," Art Bulletin 6, no. 4 (December 1984), pp. 633-644.

27. Man Ray is clear about sequence in the statement he prepared for the Museum of Modern Art: "After finishing the painting," he wrote, "the idea still obsessed me, and I made a fine-line drawing called Ballet-Silhouette" (emphasis added; see n. 23 above). Later, however, in an interview with Arturo Schwarz, he begins his account of how The Rope Dancer came into being with a description of this drawing, implying by chronological sequence that the drawing may have preceded the making of the painting (see "This Is Not for America," interview with Arturo Schwarz, Arts 51, no. 9 [May 19771, p. 118). On this drawing see also Lucy Flint, "Silhouette," no. 43 in Flint, Handbook: The Peggy Guggenheim Collection (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1983), p. 94. Originally, I, too, had assumed that Ballet-Silhouette served as a preliminary study for the painting (see "Man Ray: Early Paintings, 1913-1916: Theory and Practice in the Art of Two Dimensions," Artforum 20, no. 9 [May 1982], p. 39). The same assumption guides the analysis of the drawing by Angelica Zander Rudenstein ("Silhouette," Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice [New York: Harry N. Abram,, 1985], pp. 481-485).

28. Questionnaire, Museum of Modern Art (see n. 23 above).

29. William S. Rubin, Dada and Surrealist Art (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1968), p. 60.

30. See "Revolving Doors" (prepared by Lesley Baier and Anna Chave), in Robert L. Herbert et al., The Société Anonyme and the Dreier Bequest at Yale University: A Catalogue Raisonné (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984), p. 567.

31. "Revolving Doors," p. 567.

32. SP, p.68.

33. Quoted in Roland Penrose, Man Ray (Boston: New York Graphic Society, 1975), p. 56.

34. In 1935 the artist affixed a rubber ball to the fingertips of a wooden mannequin's detached hand and entitled the resultant assemblage Main Ray, an obvious pun characteristic of the kind of title the artist frequently assigned to his sculptures in this period. On Man Ray's playful manipulations of language, see Robert Pincus-Witten, "Man Ray: The Homonymic Pun and American Vernacular," Ariforum 13, no. 8 (April 1975), pp. 54-59.

35. On this exhibition, see William A. Camfield, Francis Picabia: His Art, Life, and Times (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979), pp. 68-69.

36. Schwarz, Man Ray, p. 37.

37. Although the catalogue indicates only a closing date, January 16, 1917, the show probably ran no more than a few weeks, as was customary at the time. Moreover, another exhibition was up at the gallery through the month of December, a show in which Man Ray not only participated but for which he even provided a design for the cover of the catalogue (see figs. 128, 129). Finally, the first newspaper reviews of the show only began to appear around January 7, 1917, indicating that it probably opened at around that time.

38. Quoted in Schwarz, Man Ray, p. 136.

39. SP, p. 71.

40. Marcel Duchamp, "The Creative Act," delivered as a talk in Houston, Texas, at a meeting of the American Federation of the Arts, April 1957 (frequently reprinted; first published in Art News 56, no. 4 [Summer 1957], pp. 28-29).

41. Willard Huntington Wright, "Modern Art: Walkowitz, Monet, and Burlin," International Studio 60 (November-February 1916-1917), p. cxxxii.

42. Henry McBride, "Modern Art of Berlin and Man Ray," Sun (January 7, 1917), sec. 4, p. 12.

43. "This Is Not for America," interview with Arturo Schwarz, Arts 51, no. 9 (May 1977), p. 119.

44. Ibid.

45. Ibid.


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