Man Ray - Photographs London Friday, October 25, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Harry Lunn Gallery, Washington, DC, 1972
    Swann Galleries, New York, Fine Photographs, 7 February 2008, lot 133

  • Literature

    Man Ray: Photography and its Double, Paris: Centre Pompidou, 1998, p. 161

  • Catalogue Essay

    The study of artist Meret Oppenheim offered here showcases Man Ray’s ever-inventive approach to the medium. Presented here as a vertical, this image is actually a radically cropped printing of the horizontal 5-by-7-inch negative which shows Oppenheim lying full-length upon the floor of Man Ray’s studio. Through cropping and re-orientation, Man Ray transformed the image into a surreal portrait in which Oppenheim’s delicate chain necklace floats around her throat and her hair defies gravity. Another print of this image with the same cropping and orientation is in the collection of the Centre Pompidou, Paris.

    Man Ray was introduced to the German-born Oppenheim in Paris by their mutual friend Alberto Giacometti in the early 1930s. Oppenheim posed repeatedly for Man Ray, resulting in some of his best-known photographs from that decade, including Erotique Voilée and, notably, The Primacy of Matter over Mind which shows Oppenheim in a similar pose to the image offered here, lying down with her arm draped above her head. In his autobiography, Man Ray called Oppenheim ‘one of the most uninhibited women I have ever met,’ and the images he made with her show her active engagement in their photographic sessions.

    Oppenheim is perhaps best known for Object, 1936, her fur-covered cup, saucer, and spoon, which created a sensation upon its debut. This uncanny assemblage shows her full embrace of Surrealism and her ability to transform the quotidian into something charged with mystery. Object was acquired by The Museum of Modern Art shortly after it was made, becoming the first Surrealist object to enter the collection. Oppenheim remained a vital member of the Surrealist movement in Paris until the late 1930s when she began to explore a different and ultimately more feminist approach to art.


Meret Oppenheim

Gelatin silver print.
23.5 x 17.1 cm (9 1/4 x 6 3/4 in.)
Signed and dated in pencil on the recto; titled and variously annotated in unidentified hands in pencil on the verso.

£30,000 - 50,000 

Contact Specialist
Genevieve Janvrin
Co-Head of Photographs, Europe
Yuka Yamaji
Co-Head of Photographs, Europe

General Enquiries
+44 20 7318 4092


London Auction 25 October 2019