“Poet of the Darkroom”: Celebrating Man Ray

Remember that classic Sesame Street skit “One of These Things Is Not Like the Others”? Well, we’ll forgive you if you felt like singing that familiar tune when looking at the Modern Art in America stamp sheet.


Art © Estate of Stuart Davis/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Art © Estate of Honoria Murphy Donnelly/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Art © Heirs of Aaron Douglas/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Art © Man Ray Trust/ARS/ADAGP 2012. Art © 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris/Succession Marcel Duchamp. Black Mesa Landscape, New Mexico/Out Back of Marie’s II, 1930 © Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. Art © 2011 Estate of John Marin/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Art © The Estate of Arthur G. Dove/Terry Dintenfass, Inc.

The only photograph on this would-be art gallery wall comes from Man Ray, who was born on this day in 1890. A versatile artist associated with some of the most important artistic movements of the 20th century, Man Ray is generally agreed to have made his most valuable contribution as a photographer. Writer Jean Cocteau even called him “the great poet of the darkroom.”

In the 1920s, Man Ray made several iconic photographs of his companion at the time, a woman known as Kiki de Montparnasse, a nightclub performer and favorite model and muse to a number of avant-garde artists. She posed for his well-known photograph Le Violon d’Ingres (1924), with a violin’s curlicue “f”-holes on her otherwise naked back.


Art © Man Ray Trust/ARS/ADAGP 2012

Noire et Blanche (1926), used in the Modern Art in America stamp art, is from a series of photographs juxtaposing Kiki’s face with a Baule mask from West Africa (or a replica). Like other artists of his time, Man Ray turned to African artifacts partly from a sense that art had exhausted its possibilities in the industrialized West.

The Modern Art in America stamp sheet, which was released on March 7, is currently available online, by calling 800-STAMP24 (800-782-6724), and in Post Offices nationwide.

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