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Man Ray was born Emmanuel Radnitsky on August 27, 1890, in Philadelphia, and moved to New York with his family seven years later. In New York he frequented Alfred Stieglitz’s gallery “291” in 1911 and attended classes at the Ferrer Center in 1912. In 1915 his first solo show was held at the Daniel Gallery, New York. About this time he took up photography, the medium for which he was to become best known. He entered into a lifelong friendship with Marcel Duchamp, with whom he and Walter Arensberg founded the Society of Independent Artists in 1916. With Duchamp, Katherine Dreier, Henry Hudson, and Andrew McLaren, Man Ray established the Société Anonyme, which he named, in 1920. Before the artist moved from New York to Paris in 1921, Man Ray and Duchamp published the single issue of New York Dada.
In Paris Man Ray was given a solo exhibition at the Librairie Six in 1921. His first Rayographs (photographic images produced without a camera) were published in Les Champs délicieux, rayographies in 1922, the year the artist participated in the Salon Dada at the Galerie Montaigne in Paris. With Jean Arp, Giorgio de Chirico, Max Ernst, André Masson, Joan Miró, and Pablo Picasso, he was represented in the first Surrealist exhibition at the Galerie Pierre in Paris in 1925. From 1923 to 1929 he made the films Le Retour à la raison, Emak Bakia, L’Etoile de mer, and Les Mystères du château de dé. In 1932 Man Ray’s work was included in Dada, 1916–1932 at the Galerie de l’Institut in Paris and in a Surrealist show at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York. He collaborated with Paul Eluard on the books Facile in 1935 and Les Mains libres in 1937. In 1936 he went to New York on the occasion of the Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, in which his work appeared.
The artist left France in 1940, shortly before the German occupation, making his way to Hollywood and then to New York. In 1951 he returned to Paris, where he was given a solo show at the Galerie Berggruen. In 1959 a solo exhibition of Man Ray’s work was held at the Institute of Contemporary Art in London. His autobiography Self Portrait was published in 1963. Ten years later the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York presented 125 of his photographic works. Man Ray died on November 18, 1976, in Paris.