Snapshots of Surrealism

Christie’s is auctioning a treasure trove of works by Surrealist Man Ray – that are a part of the collection of one of the people who knew him the most, his long-time assistant Lucien Treillard. With black and white contact prints, rayograms, drawings, and an assemblage of objects – that no Surrealist worth his salt can do without – this significant sale is estimated at €3 million.

Snapshots of Surrealism LOT 48 - Man Ray - Jean Cocteau, 1922. Gelatin and silver print

On March 2, 2021 at 2pm at auction giant Christie’s Paris headquarters, the hammer will go down on one of the most exciting sales for fans of surrealism, a treasure trove of Surrealist art works by one of the greatest Surrealists of all time, Man Ray. This collection, entitled Man Ray and the Surrealists, Collection Lucien and Edmonde Treillard, comes from the estate of his long-time assistant, Lucien Treillard (who passed away in 2003).

This exceptional sale, consisting of 203 lots for a total estimate of nearly €3 million, will highlight the world of Man Ray – ethereal photos of ladies of the haute societe, plus personalities that formed a part of Man Ray’s impressive roster of friends, such as Dora Maar, the legendary Pablo Picasso, and filmmaker Jean Cocteau. These come through the unique collection of the man who worked alongside him until the end of his life: Lucien Treillard.

His mission also led him to organize Man Ray's first monographic exhibitions such as the one at the Photokina in Cologne, Germany, and the one at the National Library in 1962. This sale at Christie's, composed of objects, assemblages, photographs, and lithographs from his collection, offers a complete and unique panorama of Man Ray's creations.

In 1960, Lucien Treillard became Man Ray's assistant, following in the footsteps of illustrious predecessors such as Berenice Abbott, Jacques-André Boiffard, Bill Brandt, and Lee Miller. His role, central to the artist's career, was above all to promote Man Ray's work. Alongside Juliet, the artist's companion, Lucien Treillard continued his efforts to promote Man Ray's art even after the artist's death.

Snapshots of Surrealism LOT 58 - Man Ray - Pablo Picasso, 1924

A group of 97 photographs will be presented in this sale. These delightful works, most of which are contact prints, illustrate the diversity of Man Ray’s practice. Images of iconic personalities such as Lee Miller, Marcel Duchamp, Jean Cocteau, or Dora Maar are displayed alongside portraits of many artists such as Dali and Gala (estimated €5,000-7,000), Pablo Picasso (estimated €8,000-10,000) or Max Ernst.

Themes important to Man Ray will be represented, like his Objets Mathématiques, the mannequins de l'Exposition Internationale from 1938 or prints from the film L'Étoile de mer (1928) and the series Érotique voilée (estimate €50,000- 70,000).

Snapshots of Surrealism LOT 135 - Sans titre, 1959. gelatin silver print, rayograph

Light will also be shed on the diversity of techniques used by the artist. The rayogram (or rayograph), discovered by accident by Man Ray in 1922, is obtained by placing objects on a photosensitive surface and then exposing it directly to light, without a camera. This process, which fascinates and inspires the surrealist avant-garde, will be illustrated in the Alphabet pour Adultes (estimate €80,000-100,000). This model, consisting of 12 rayograms and 13 original drawings each representing a letter of the alphabet, will be one of the highlights of this sale.

Snapshots of Surrealism LOT 96 - Man Ray - Les doigts d'amour de Main Ray, la ligne, la couleur, la forme, l'espace, l'air, 1951

Similarly, Les doigts d’amour de Main Ray, 1951 (estimate €50,000-70,000) is a unique rayogram honouring the technique that bears his name. The Primate of Matter over Thought, 1931 is the result of a solarization process and will be one of the much-awaited lots in this sale.

Snapshots of Surrealism LOT 99 - Man Ray - Mr. Knife and Miss Fork (answers all the wishes of René Crevel) (Monsieur Couteau et Mademoiselle Fourchette (comble tous les voeux de René Crevel)

As to objects and assemblages, underlining the humour and mythical character of Man Ray’s work, will also be offered at this sale. These objects, with Man Ray referred to as “objects of my affection”, illustrate the treasures of creativity that the artist uses in the conception of his universe. According to his doctrine, “everything is possible from nothing”. Thus the 1971 version of Object to be destroyed – Perpetual Motif is no exception to the rule, and features a metronome whose pendulum is adorned with a photograph of Lee Miller’s eye, printed on optical paper (estimate €25,000-35,000). Similarly, between fantasy and simplicity, the essay by Mr Knife and Miss Fork consists of a silver-plated metal knife and fork with wooden beads and braided cotton net mounted on a wooden panel (estimate €10,000-15,000).

Snapshots of Surrealism


Priya Kumari Rana

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