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Man Ray letters and album, 1922-1976

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Title: Man Ray letters and album
Dates: 1922-1976
Number: 930027
Creator/Collector: Man Ray, 1890-1976
Extent: 2.5 linear feet (5 boxes)
Abstract: A significant ensemble of letters and writings by or addressed to Man Ray and collected by his sister Elsie Ray Siegler and her daughter Naomi Savage. The letters provide a rich chronicle of Man Ray's personal and professional life from 1922 to 1976. Letters to Man Ray are from Dada and surrealist artists and authors, and document the dynamic artistic and literary scenes of the immediate pre- and post-World War II period in the United States. An album of Man Ray's predominately handwritten manuscripts supplements the letters.
Request Materials: Request access to the physical materials described in this inventory through the catalog record for this collection. Click here for the access policy.
Language: Collection material is in English and French.
Repository: The Getty Research Institute
Special Collections
1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
Los Angeles, California, 90049-1688
(310) 440-7390
Author: Finding aid prepared by Lynda Bunting, Liska Jacobs.

Biographical/Historical Note

American-born photographer, painter, and sculptor who played a key role in the Surrealist and Dada movements. He lived and worked in Paris in the 1920s and 1930s, in Los Angeles in the 1940s, and Paris again until his death in 1976.

Scope and Content of Collection

The Man Ray Letters and Album consists of a significant ensemble of letters and writings by or addressed to Man Ray, collected and safeguarded by his sister Elsie Ray Siegler and her daughter Naomi Savage. The letters from Man Ray are addressed to Siegler and Savage and provide a rich chronicle of his personal and professional life from 1922-1976. Letters to Man Ray are from celebrated Dada and Surrealist artists and authors, and document the dynamic artistic and literary scenes of the immediate pre-and post-World War II period in the United States. An album of predominately handwritten manuscripts supplements the letters by offering Man Ray's thoughts on a range of artistic issues.

Arrangement note

Organized in three series:
Series I. Letters from Man Ray;
Series II. Letters to Man Ray;
Series III. Hollywood album.



Open for use by qualified researchers.

Publication Rights

Contact Library Rights and Reproductions.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Man Ray letters and album, 1922-1976, Getty Research Institute, Research Library, Accession no. 930027.

Acquisition Information

Acquired in 1993.

Container List

Series I. Letters from Man Ray, 1922-1976 ca. 400 items
Series contains letters and postcards to Siegler and Savage. The letters to his sister date from shortly after he arrived in Paris in 1921 (letters begin in 1922) to her death in 1957. Siegler acted as his New York agent and thus handled many of his business affairs and set prices for some of his works. By the 1950s she was his exclusive U.S. representative. Letters cover these and other matters including tracking, storing and shipping of his works in New York; exhibitions throughout his career; paucity of sales in the early Paris and the Hollywood years; requests for camera equipment and clothing; the war and property he abandoned in France; travels; creation, sale and inventory of chess sets; his preference for painting over photography (see especially letter dated 15 April 1936); the "Sade" painting; and his parent's finances and other family matters.
The letters to his niece begin in 1945 and end in 1976, the year he died. These letters record Savage's vigilance in caring for his works stored in New York. They include topics such as, his encouragement and advice on her photographic work; problems with gallery representation in Europe during his later Paris period; book publications, especially Self Portrait; success and recognition obtained in the 1960s; and his failing health from the mid-1960s onward. This series also includes a small quantity of letters received by Siegler and Savage from galleries and museums concerning loans and shipping, and correspondence with Adrienne Fidelin, Man Ray's lover in France prior to his departure for the U.S. in 1940.
Box Folder
1 1 Elsie Ray Siegler, 1922-1929 23.0 items
1 2 1930-1939 44.0 items
1 3 1940-1941 33.0 items
1 4 1942-1944 24.0 items
1 5 1945-1949 40.0 items
1 6 1950-1952 17.0 items
1 7 1953-1954 35.0 items
1 8 1956-1958, n.d. 33.0 items
1 9 Naomi Savage, 1945-1959 31.0 items
1 10 1960-1964 48.0 items
Box Folder
2 1 Naomi Savage, 1965-1969 39.0 items
2 2 1970-1976 39.0 items
2 3 Letters to Siegler and Savage concerning Man Ray, 1936-1958 25.0 items
Letters, mostly from museums and galleries, pertain to loans and shipping. Includes 2 letters from Hans Richter (27 Oct 1952, 24 Jun 1958).
2 4 Adrienne Fidelin, 1940 6.0 items
Love letters in which they request news of each other. Man Ray's letters to Fidelin never reached her and were returned to Siegler. Fidelin's letters reached Siegler after Man Ray left for Hollywood.
Series II. Letters to Man Ray, 1940-1950 ca. 375 items
Series contains letters and postcards of a personal and professional nature from artists, authors, museum personnel, collectors, publishers, and gallery owners, spanning Man Ray's years in Hollywood. The letters from artists and authors document friendships, collaborations, works in progress, emigrations from France, and exhibitions. Notable correspondents are Salvador Dali, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst and Dorothea Tanning, Henry Miller, Gilbert Neiman, Mary Reynolds, Hans Richter, James Thrall Soby, and Yves Tanguy.
Box Folder
2 5 Dali, Salvador, 1941 2.0 letters
Letters requesting photographs for his book, with mentions of travel, expositions, and other personal matters.
2 6 Dreier, Katherine (Société Anonyme) 1945-1948 6.0 items
Includes letter asking Man Ray to become Vice President of the society since Kandinsky died (1945); 3 letters, one of which has a note from Duchamp (1948), concerning the Yale University Art Gallery exhibit and donation of The Promenade; and postcard about Schwitters for an exhibition at the Pinacotheca (1947).
2 7 Duchamp, Marcel, 1940-1941, 1943-1950 29.0 items
Personal letters concerning his and other artists' plans for leaving France; much on chess and the creation of chess sets and boards; about an exhibition of rotoreliefs with sketches on how to install (948 Apr 10); and about the creation and sale of his boxes; with news of Mary Reynolds and one letter written by the two of them. (See also Mary Reynolds letters in Box 2, folder 19, previously unidentified).
2 8 Ernst, Max and Dorothea Tanning, 1948, n.d. 12.0 letters
Chatty letters concerning personal matters with some comments about work and exhibitions. Includes 1 letter from Tanning about touching up some portrait photographs Man Ray sent and her photogenic qualities (Mar 24). Most dated without years, 2 dated 1948.
2 9 Ford, Charles-Henri, 1943 2.0 postcards
2 10 Miller, Henry, 1945-1948, n.d. 19.0 items
Personal letters and postcards mentioning friends (several references to Gilbert Neiman), books, Sade, and photographs for Miller's postcard stationary. Also includes long discussions on the duality of man, and suggests that Man Ray create portraits based on phrenology (Feb 9, Mar 24).
2 11 Motherwell, Robert, 1948 2.0 letters
Regarding Dada painters and poets. One letter written by George Wittenborn.
2 12 Neiman, Gilbert, 1943-1948, 1950 29.0 letters
Witty, personal letters contain much literary gossip, including his thoughts on the work of Eluard, Breton, Céline, their mutual friend Henry Miller and many other writers and publishers. Included are discussions of his own writings and his struggles to publish. With a 4 p. poem "Twist the Face of Time" (sent with a letter dated 1944 Sep 8) and two 1 p. poems, "A Communication" and "Enocomics"(both ca. 1946).
2 13-14 Richter, Hans, 1942-1950
Three letters give news of himself and others, among other things, 1948, 1950. Another folder contains 12 letters (1942, 1945-1946, 1948), clippings, catalog and announcement concerning his film Dreams that money can buy. The letters chronicle Richter's difficulty interpreting Man Ray's story onto film, his thoughts on how it should be done, the type of critics who are interested in reviewing the film, and the Hollywood opening. The verso of one of the letters contains a typed statement by Man Ray detailing his approach to art, which was edited down for the catalog. (See also Special Collections accession nos. 880428 and 970021 for more on Dreams that money can buy.)
2 15 Soby, James Thrall, 1939, 1941-1943, 1948-1949 8.0 letters
Letters in which Soby discusses the following topics (among others): his thoughts about donating Man Ray's photographs that Soby published to the museum in Hartford; his collection of art, including a drawing by Picasso of Man Ray which Soby has but knows he should return to Man Ray; the album sales; the task of locating photographs of Duchamp's works for a book; his thoughts on the art business in NYC; his request for photographs for the Army Camps show; and reassurances to Man Ray about the exhibit of his photographs in Monroe Wheeler's portrait show.
2 16 Tanguy, Yves, 1940, 1950, undated 3.0 items
2 letters (one of which is illustrated on the verso) updating Man Ray on emigration plans of their artist friends; with a note.
2 17 Miscellaneous letters A-L ca. 55 items
Letters from artists, museum staff, gallery owners, collectors, publishers, and friends concerning a variety of topics. Correspondents include Antonin Artaud, Leo Castelli, Leonor Fini, Seymour Hacker, John Laughlin, Julien Levy, among others.
2 18 Miscellaneous letters M-Z ca. 55 items
Includes letters from Maria Martins, Moholy-Nagy, Sibyl Moholy-Nagy, Pierre Matisse, Museum of Modern Art personnel, Beaumont Newhall, Wolfgang Paalen, Kenneth Rexroth.
2 19 Unidentified ca. 20 items
Includes letters from Mary Reynolds to Man Ray (Mary Louise Hubachek Reynolds, 1891-1950), signed only "Mary", and previously unidentified. In one letter she refers to her brother, Frank Brookes Hubachek.
2 20 Miscellaneous 5 items
Series III. Hollywood album, 1940-1948 3 boxes
The Hollywood album holds handwritten and typescript writings, most of one page, on art and aesthetics, written and assembled by Man Ray, 1940-1948. The album pages have been re-housed in boxes 3-4.
Loose items, including handwritten notes, photographs, drawings, a manuscript, and a catalog, originally accompanied the notebook but are now housed separately, with the original notebook binder, in box 5.
3-4 Album
Hollywood album is composed of 12 sections of manuscripts, by topic.
3 Music and Cinema
On the cinema, ideas for films, the superiority of painting and drawing over film.
3 Painting and Photography (P&P)
3 Art and Science (A&S)
3 Objects
3 In Time
On the subject of time.
3 Sade
About the marquis de Sade.
3 Influences
Influences in art.
3 Words
On the study of words, writing and writers. Includes "Portraits" or "Men I have Known."
4 Nature and the Man
On the human form, imitation and nature.
4 Dream
Significance of dreams as subjects in art. Includes "Apprentices and pupils."
4 Image
4 Calm Diatribe
Poem in handwritten and typed form.
5 Material accompanying the Album
Materials originally inside cover of a Julian Levy Gallery catalog.
5 1 Manuscripts
5 1 "Revolving Doors"
5 1 "Math & Butterflies"
5 1 "A Note on the Shakespearean Equations"
5 1 "Equations for Shakespear [sic]"
5 1 "Photography in Reverse"
5 1 "Statement on Surrealism"
5 1 "Inevitability of Modern Art"
5 1 "The World We Make Believe"
5 1 Drawings 3.0 items
Ink drawing of a camera; 2 pencil drawings.
5 1 Photograph of group, Hollywood, 1948
Alfred Lewin, Millie Lewin, Juliet Man Ray, Hans Richter, Man Ray, Florence Homulka in front of poster for Dreams that Money can Buy (film opening?).
5 1 Astrological chart for Man Ray
5 1 Julian Levy Gallery catalog, 1945
5 2 Original notebook for Album
Cover includes photograph of Man Ray signed by Man Ray and Savage, 1948.