Man Ray: 1890 – 1976

Larmes-(tears)- Man Ray-1930Born Emmanuel Radnitzky on August 27, 1890 in Philidelphia, PA, Man Ray was an influential artist, best known for his avant-garde photography. He was a leading figure (and the only American) to play a  significant role in the Dada and Surrealist movements.

Ray grew up in Brooklyn, New York and showed artistic ability at an early age.  He studied drawing under Robert Henri and George Bellows at the Francisco Ferrer Social Center (Modern School). Upon his completion of his classes, Ray lived in the art colony of Ridgefield, New Jersey. There, he illustrated, designed and produced small pamphlets (Ridgefield Gazook – 1915) and A Book of Diverse Writings.

Ray had his first solo show at the Daniel Gallery in New York in 1915 and shortly after became interested in photography.  Around the same time, he became friends with Marcel Duchamp with whom he founded the Society of Independent Artists in 1916.  In 1920, along with Duchamp, Katherine Dreier, Henry Hudson, and Andrew McLaren, Ray founded the Société Anonyme, a group that sponsored lectures, concerts, publications, and exhibitions of modern art.

In 1921, May Ray moved to Paris where he settled for twenty years.  He became involved with Dada and Surrealist artists and writers such as Jean Cocteau, Max Ernst, Dali, Eluard, Picasso, and others.  While in Paris, Ray worked with different media and produced a variety of works.  In 1922, he began experimenting with his version of a photogram which he called a “rayograph” – the process of creating images from placing objects on photo-sensitive paper.  Ray likened his technique to painting saying that he was “painting with light”.

In the 1920′s and 30′s Ray earned a steady income as a portrait photographer and as one of the foremost fashion photographers for Harper’s Bazaar, Vu, and Vogue.   In the late 1920′s Ray won recognition for his experiments with Sabattier (solarization process) and many of the Surrealists followed his example of using photography in their works.

Man Ray also made his mark in the avant-garde film circles in the 1920′s. In “Le Retour à la Raison”, he created his first “cine-rayographs’ – sequences of cameraless photographs. Other films including “Emak Bakia” (1926), L’Etoile de Mer” (1928), and Les Mystères du Château de Dé” (1929) are now classics of the Surrealist film genre.

At the beginning of World War II, Man Ray left Paris and moved to Los Angeles in 1940 where he focused on painting and creating objects. While there, he also met and married Juliet Browner, a dancer and artists’ model. He remained in LA until 1951 when he returned to his home in Paris where he continued working in a variety of mediums – his photography having the greatest impact on 20th century art.  In 1963 he published his autobiography, “Self-Portrait”.

Man Ray died in Paris on November 18, 1976. His epitaph at the Cimetière du Montparnasse, reads: “unconcerned, but not indifferent”. Juliet Browner died in 1991 and she was interred in the Ray’s tomb. Her epitaph reads, “together again”. Browner set up a  charitable trust and donated much of Ray’s work to museums.

Sources: MOMA, Guggenheim MuseumWikipedia Images: USC, Ciudad de la Pintura

Rufino Tamayo: 1899-1991

Born to a Zapotecan Indian family on August 26, 1899, Rufino Tamayo is one of Mexico’s most renowned painters. An orphan by age 12, Tamayo moved to Mexico City to live with his aunt who enrolled him in commercial school.  He began taking drawing lessons in 1915 and from 1917 to 1921, he studied at the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes.

Tamayo was appointed head of the Department of Ethnographic Drawing at the Museo Nacional de Arqueología, Mexico City in 1921 where he drew pre-Columbian objects in the Museum’s collection. The influence of the forms and tones of pre-Columbian ceramics are evident in Tamayo’s early works.

Unlike other well-known Mexican artists of the time such as Diego Rivera, Orozco, and Siquieros, Tamayo believed in the universality of painting.  His modern style that was influenced by pre-Columbian and European art, caused him some ridicule by the popular muralists who thought that their “only path” in art should serve revolutionary ideals. Tamayo’s response was “Can you believe that, to say that ours is the only path when the fundamental thing in art is freedom! In art, there are millions of paths—as many paths as there are artists.”

Tamayo’s differences with the Mexican muralists prompted him to move to New York from 1926 to 1928 where he was influenced by the work of European artists such as Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and Henri Matisse. His painting became a fusion of the European styles of Cubism and Surrealism and his subject matter of Mexican culture.

By the 1930′s Tamayo’s paintings that featured intense colours and textured surfaces had become well known.  He returned to New York between 1936 and 1950 where he created a large body of work, taught at the Dalton School, and exhibited his work at the Valentine Gallery. Tamayo was also a prolific printmaker, and he experimented with bronze and iron sculpture.

Tamayo’s first retrospective was held at the Instituto de Bellas Artes, Mexico City in 1948. In 1950, his successful exhibition at the Venice Biennale led to international recognition.  As well, Tamayo was commissioned to design murals for the National Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City (1952-53) and for UNESCO in Paris (Prometheus Bringing Fire to Man, 1958).

Tamayo and his wife Olga lived in Paris between 1957 and 1964 before returning to Mexico City permanently in 1964.  The French government named him Chevalier and Officier de la Légion d’Honneur in 1956 and 1969.

Tamayo donated his collection of pre-Columbian art to the city of Oaxaca in 1974, founding the Rufino Tamayo Museum of Pre-Hispanic Art. As well, in 1981, he and his wife donated their collection of international art to the people of Mexico, forming the Rufino Tamayo Museum of Contemporary Art in Mexico City.

Tamayo’s work was exhibited in group and solo shows around the world including retrospectives at the São Paulo Bienal in 1977 and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, in 1979. In 1988, he received the Belisario Domínguez Medal of Honor. Tamayo created his final painting  (a self portrait), in 1989 at the age of 90 – Hombre con flor (Man with flower). He died in Mexico City on June 24, 1991.

Sources: Guggenheim Collection, Albright-Knox Gallery, Wikipedia,, Images: Ciudad de la Pintura

Henri Cartier-Bresson: 1908 – 2004

Born on August 22, 1908, in Chanteloup, Seine-et-Marne, near Paris, Henri Cartier-Bresson is considered by many to be the father of modern photo-journalism.

In 1927, Cartier-Bresson studied painting at the Lhote Academy in Paris under Cubist painter and sculptor André Lhote. He turned to photography in 1931 when he acquired a Leica 35mm camera – a camera that, unlike its bulky predecessors, was ideal for capturing action.

Cartier-Bresson preferred an unobtrusive (“a fly on the wall”) approach to photography. This approach helped to develop the real life reporting (candid photography), that has influenced generations of photo-journalists.

Cartier-Bresson traveled the world photographing “the times” in Russia, China, Cuba, India, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Turkey, Europe , and the United States.  He photographed events such as the funeral of Gandhi, the fall of Beijing, and the liberation of Paris. Cartier-Bresson’s main body of work however was of human activities and the institutions of  society. In every country, he sought out market places, weddings, funerals, people at work, children in parks, adults in their leisure time, and other every-day activities.

During the Battle of France, in June 1940 Cartier-Bresson was captured by German soldiers and spent 35 months in prisoner-of-war camps doing forced labor under the Nazis.  He escaped in 1943 and began working for MNPGD, a secret organization that aided prisoners and escapees. At the end of the war, Cartier-Bresson directed “Le Retour” (The Return), a documentary on the repatriation of prisoners of war and detainees.

In 1947, along with Robert Capa, David Seymour, William Vandivert, and George Rodger, Cartier-Bresson founded the co-operative agency “Magnum Photos”. The aim of Magnum was to allow photographers to “work outside the formulas of magazine journalism”.

In 1952, Cartier-Bresson published a book of his photographs entitled ” Images à la sauvette” (images on the run),  with the English title “The Decisive Moment”. In the 1960′s he created 16 portraiture stories entitled “A Touch of Greatness” for the the London magazine “The Queen”. The stories profiled personalities such as Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Miller, Robert Kennedy and others.

In 1968, Cartier-Bresson left Magnum Photos and photography in general, focusing once again on drawing and painting.  He retired from photography completely by 1975 and had his first exhibition of his drawings at the Carlton Gallery in New York in 1975.

From 1975 on, Cartier-Bresson continued to focus on drawing. In 1982 he was awarded the Grand Prix National de la Photographie in Paris, and in 1986, the Novecento Prize in Palermo, Italy.  In 1988, the Museum of Modern Art in New York held an exhibition of his photographs – “Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Early Work”.

In 2003, Cartier-Bresson, along with his wife Martine Franck and their daughter Mélanie, launched the Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation, to provide a permanent home for his collected works and as an exhibition space for other artists. Cartier-Bresson died peacefully on August 3rd 2004 in Montjustin, Provence. He was buried in the cemetery of Montjustin, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, France.

For a complete biography of Henri Cartier-Bresson, visit the HCB Foundation or for a good source of photos visit Magnum Photos.

Related Books:
Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Modern Century
The Mind’s Eye: Writings on Photography and Photographers

An Inner Silence: The Portraits of Henri Cartier-Bresson

Sources: Met Museum, National Press Photographer’s Association, HCB Foundation, Wikipedia

Andy Warhol: 1928 – 1987

Born Andrew Warhola on August 6, 1928 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Andy Warhol was a painter, printmaker, and filmmaker and a  pivotal figure in the formation of the  Pop Art movement.

Warhol was the son of working-class Slovakian immigrants. His frequent illnesses in childhood often kept him bedridden and at home. During this time, he formed a strong bond with his mother.  It was what he describes an important period in the formation of his personality and skill set.

Warhol studied at the School of Fine Arts at Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh (now Carnegie Mellon University), majoring in pictorial design. In 1949, he moved to New York City where he quickly became successful in magazine illustration and advertising, producing work for publications such as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and the The New Yorker.

Much of Warhol’s work the 1950’s was commissioned by fashion houses and he became known for his whimsical ink drawings of I. Miller shoes. In 1952, Warhol’s illustrations for Truman Capote’s writings were exhibited by the Hugo Gallery in New York and he exhibited at several other venues in the 1950′s including a 1956 group show at the Museum of Modern Art. Warhol received several awards during this decade from the Art Director’s Club and the American Institute of Graphic Arts.

Warhol was enthralled with Hollywood celebrities, fashion, and style and by the early 1960’s these interests were reflected in his artwork. Borrowing images from popular culture, Warhol’s “Pop Art” paintings were characterized by repetition of everyday objects such as soup cans, Coca Cola bottles, and 100 dollar bills.  He also began painting celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, and Elizabeth Taylor.

Most of Warhol’s paintings were produced in his studio that he called “The Factory” with the help of assistants. Photographic images were screen-printed on to painted backgrounds and mechanically repeated – a process that mimicked the manufacturing industry and parodied mass consumption. During the Factory years, Warhol associated with and “groomed” a variety of artists, writers, musicians, and underground celebrities including Edie Sedgwick, Viva, writer John Giorno, and film-maker Jack Smith.

Warhol worked prolifically in a range of media including painting, photography, drawing, sculpture, and film. Between 1963 and 1968 he produced more than 60 films and about 500 short “screen test” portraits of his studio visitors. His most popular and successful film was Chelsea Girls, made in 1966.

On June 3, 1968, Warhol and art critic/curator Mario Amaya, were shot by Valerie Solanas after she was turned away from the Factory studio. Warhol’s wound was almost fatal and would affect him physically and mentally for the rest of his life.

The 1970’s was a quieter decade for Warhol who concentrated more on portrait commissions for celebrities such as Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Michael Jackson, and others.  He founded Interview Magazine and in 1975 published “The Philosophy of Andy Warhol” which expressed the idea that “Making money is art, and working is art and good business is the best art.” During the 1970’s Warhol was also involved in a number collaborations with young artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Francesco Clemente and Keith Haring.

In general, Andy Warhol was consistently ambiguous on the meaning of his work and appeared indifferent and ambivalent. He denied that his artwork carried any social or political commentary.

Warhol died in New York City on February 22, 1987 of a cardiac arrhythmia while recovering from routine gallbladder surgery. In his will, almost his entire estate was dedicated to the “advancement of the visual arts”. The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts was founded in that same year and it remains one of the largest grant-giving organizations for the visual arts in the United States today.

Sources: MOMA, Guggenheim, National Gallery of Canada, Andy Warhol Foundation, Wikipedia

Henry Moore: 1898 – 1986

Recognized as the most important British sculptor of the 20th century, Henry Spencer Moore was born on July 30, 1898, in Castleford, Yorkshire. Moore had an early interest in sculpting however he began his career as a teacher in Castleford. After serving in the military during World War I, Moore studied at Leeds School of Art on an ex-serviceman’s grant. In 1921 he won a Royal Exhibition Scholarship to study sculpture at the Royal Academy of Art in London.  Between 1924 – 1931 Moore was an Instructor of Sculpture at the Royal Academy. His first solo exhibition was held at the Warren Gallery, London, in 1928

“Throughout his life Moore’s appetite for the history of world sculpture was insatiable. Drawings of sculptures in his early sketchbooks indicate that Palaeolithic fertility goddesses, Cycladic and early Greek art, Sumerian, Egyptian and Etruscan sculpture, African, Oceanic, Peruvian and Pre-Columbian sculpture particularly interested him.  Moore believed passionately in direct carving and in ‘truth to materials’, respecting the inherent character of stone or wood. Almost all of his works from the 1920s and 1930s were carved sculptures, initially inspired by Pre-Columbian stone carving.” (MoMa)

Moore married Irina Radetsky in 1929. A student of painting at the Royal College, she would be Moore’s model for a series of life drawings over a six year period.

Moore’s sculpture of the 1930s was influenced by the work of Picasso, Hans Arp and Alberto Giacometti. “The subject-matter of Moore’s work of 1932–6 is, in some cases, no longer readily identifiable, although the human, psychological element informs even the seemingly abstract work of the 1930s.”

In the 1930s Moore was a member of Unit One, a group of artists lead by English landscape painter Paul Nash. From 1932 to 1939 he taught at the Chelsea School of Art. Moore was “an important force in the English Surrealist movement, although he was not entirely committed to its doctrines; Moore participated in the International Surrealist Exhibition at the New Burlington Galleries, London, in 1936.”

In 1940 Moore was appointed an official war artist and was commissioned by the War Artists Advisory Committee to execute drawings of life in underground bomb shelters. From 1940 to 1943 he focused almost entirely on drawing. His first retrospective took place at Temple Newsam, Leeds, in 1941 and he was given his first major retrospective in the United States by the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1946. Moore won the International Prize for Sculpture at the Venice Biennale of 1948.

Moore’s bronze Reclining Figure commissioned by the Arts Council for the Festival of Britain in 1951 was key in Moore’s development. “Previously the holes in his sculptures were dominated by the solid forms surrounding them but here ‘the space and the form are completely dependent on and inseparable from each other’ His work became less frontal and more completely three-dimensional. The reclining figure and the mother and child remained the dominant subjects of his sculpture.”

After the mid-1950s,  many of Moore’s sculptures were made from natural objects including bones, shells, pebbles and flint stones.

Until the mid-1950s Moore made numerous preparatory drawings for his sculptures as well as pictorial studies of interiors and sculptures in landscape settings. He drew little between 1955 and 1970 but during the last 15 years of his life, he devoted more of his time to drawing  for pleasure,  independent of his sculpture. He first made prints in 1931, and he experimented with a process he called collograph. By the end of his life Moore had produced 719 prints.

“Moore executed several important public commissions in the 1950s, among them Reclining Figure, 1956–58, for the UNESCO Building in Paris. In 1963 the artist was awarded the British Order of Merit. In the 1970s there were many major exhibitions of Moore’s work, the finest being at Forte di Belvedere, overlooking Florence (1972). The Henry Moore Sculpture Centre in the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, opened in 1974. It comprises the world’s largest public collection of Moore’s work, most of it donated by him between 1971 and 1974. In 1977 the Henry Moore Foundation was established at Much Hadham, and Moore presented 36 sculptures to the Tate Gallery in 1978.”

Henry Moore died in Much Hadham, Hertfordshire, on August 31, 1986.

Sources: Guggenheim, MoMA, Wikimedia Commons (images), Tate,  Oval With Points Photo by Maia C