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Emmanuel Radnitzy, born Man Ray, once stated, ‘I paint what cannot be photographed. I photograph subjects that I am unable to paint’. He was best known for his photography, which blurred the lines between Dada and Surrealism. He spent a significant portion of his life as an immigrant in Paris, where he worked for several mass media outlets. This sparked his interest in creative, artistic expression, and he entered the world of modernist art. Man Ray has worked in a variety of mediums, including painting, photography, sculpture, and collage. He received numerous contracts for photographs and commercial work throughout his career, which were published in international household magazines such as ‘Vanity Fair’, ‘Vu’, ‘Vogue’, and ‘Bazaar’. He was the only American to be a member of the Paris Surrealist movement and his large body of work and photographs influenced many in both America and France. As a modernist artist, he frequently incorporates abstract inspirations into his work, both in non-concrete and simplified forms. Additionally, he was constantly experimenting with new methods of art creation, which established him as a pioneer in the modernist movement. Continue scrolling for additional information.

Childhood & Adolescence

Emmanuel Radnitzky was born in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Russian-Jewish immigrants. He had a brother and two sisters, and shortly after moving to Brooklyn, New York, his family changed his surname to Ray to avoid discrimination.

Ray’s family was in the garment business, and he was involved in the tailoring processes from an early age, which would eventually inspire his love of art.

From 1904 to 1909, he attended Brooklyn’s Boys’ High School and frequently visited museums to study the works of Old Masters. He turned down a scholarship to study architecture in favor of pursuing a career as an artist.

Although his family was dissatisfied with his career choice, they rearranged their home to make room for Man, who would convert it into his studio. He painted and earned a modest living as a commercial artist and technical illustrator over the next four years.

He attended art classes that piqued his interest. When he enrolled at the Ferrer School in 1912, his artistic imagination grew at a breakneck pace.

Career of Ray

Throughout his time in New York, he frequented exhibitions and galleries showcasing contemporary art. In 1915, he opened his first gallery of paintings and drawings, and the following year, he exhibited a collection titled ‘Self-Portrait.’

He developed an interest in photography and soon displayed his first images in 1918. He was a member of the Dada movement, which required him to create objects and experiment with new photographic techniques.

In 1920, while assisting Duchamp with ‘Rotary Glass,’ he exhibited one of his earlier works of kinetic art. He co-founded the ‘Societe Anonyme’ with Katherine Dreier and Marcel Duchamp the same year.

He relocated to Paris in 1921 and fell in love with Kiki de Montparnasse. She became the subject of a number of his renowned photographic images and also agreed to appear in several of his experimental films.

He rose to prominence as a photographer over the next two decades, and a number of notable figures, including Bridget Bate Tichenor, Gertrude Stein, and James Joyce, agreed to be photographed by him.

He directed a number of unconventional short films throughout the 1920s, including ‘Emak-Bakia’, ‘Le Retour à la Raison’, ‘Les Mysteres du Château de De’, and ‘L’Etoile de Mer’.

He created an object out of an eye photograph and titled it ‘Object to be Destroyed.’ This is widely considered to be one of his most significant works. In 1925, he exhibited alongside Jean Arp, Andre Masson, and Pablo Picasso in the first Surrealist exhibition.

Meret Oppenheim posed naked beside a printing press in 1934 for a series of photographs taken by Man Ray.

Despite their controversy, these photographs have been praised and criticized for their attention to detail.

He returned to the United States during World War II and lived in California from 1940 to 1951. In the following decade, he published an autobiography titled ‘Self-Portrait,’ which was reissued posthumously once more.

Significant Works of Ray

Solarization is a type of graphic print that alters the tone/color of the original image clicked, either partially or completely. Man Ray and his partner, Lee Miller, rediscovered and reinvented this technique when an exposed plate of film was accidentally developed under light.

Although numerous nineteenth-century photographers discovered this technique, none pursued further development, which Ray is largely credited with.

While attempting to cultivate photo prints in a dark room, he discovered the ‘photogram’; a method of photography using light-sensitive paper. He coined the term ‘Rayogram’ or ‘Rayograph’ for this style and built on it for more than four decades.

Awards and Accomplishments

In 1999, ARTnews magazine named him posthumously ‘one of the twenty-five most influential artists of the twentieth century.’

Personal History and Legacies

In 1914, he married poet Adon Lacroix and divorced her five years later. However, the couple divorced in 1937. He fell in love with Kiki de Montparnasse, who stayed with him throughout the 1920s, starred in his experimental films, and was the subject of numerous photo shoots.

He had an affair with photographer Lee Miller in 1929 but ended it after a few years. He married Juliet Browner, a trained dancer, in 1946 in Los Angeles, and she remained with him until his death.

He died of a lung infection on November 18, 1976, and was buried in the Cimetière du Montparnasse. Man Ray has a long and illustrious legacy. Following his death, his wife donated numerous works to museums and established a trust for his work.

His photograph ‘Noire et Blanche’ was recently featured on one of the United States Postal Service’s ‘Modern Art in America’ stamps.

Estimated Net Worth

Man is one of the wealthiest painters and is ranked as one of the most popular painters. Man Ray’s net worth is estimated to be around $7 million, according to our analysis, Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.


This celebrated modernist artist and photographer married Juliet Browner in a double wedding ceremony alongside friends Dorothea Tanning and Max Ernst.