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Wendy Gross­man, cu­ra­tor of sur­re­al­ist artist Man Ray’s works, walks us through his legacy and the in­spi­ra­tion be­hind the Nars x Man Ray col­lec­tion.

The late cel­e­brated sur­re­al­ist Man Ray joins Nars’ lineup of highly col­lectible artist col­lab­o­ra­tors.

Art his­to­rian and May Ray ex­pert Wendy Gross­man un­packs the Amer­i­can pain­ter and pho­tog­ra­pher’s en­dur­ing legacy and its in­flu­ence on fash­ion, image-mak­ing and makeup. By Karen Tee

There’s beauty in the un­con­ven­tional (and the provoca­tive), and sur­re­al­ist artist Man Ray is the lat­est to inspire cool-girl makeup brand Nars. This year, for the brand’s an­nual tie-up with an artist – pre­vi­ous col­lab­o­ra­tors in­clude Sarah Moon, Guy Bour­din, Steven Klein and Andy Warhol – for its hol­i­day col­lec­tion, Francois Nars has picked Man Ray, whose works have in­flu­enced him and some of his most avant-garde col­lab­o­ra­tors.

“Man Ray was very much into beauty, but not in a con­ven­tional, bor­ing way. With the col­lab­o­ra­tions, we high­light artists who have some­thing unique to say about women and beauty. It goes be­yond the idea of solely makeup,” says a brand rep­re­sen­ta­tive.

Born Em­manuel Rad­nitzky in the US in 1890, the pho­tog­ra­pher, film­maker and pain­ter moved to Paris in 1921. There, he fa­mously de­vel­oped his sur­re­al­ist stylis­tic tech­niques through his work for fash­ion clients such as Chanel, Lan­vin and Vion­net, and fre­quent con­tri­bu­tions to pub­li­ca­tions like Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue.

For the col­lec­tion, Nars has se­lected some of the artist’s most iconic pho­to­graphs –in­clud­ing La Mode au Congo and Les Larmes – to adorn com­pacts, while Man Ray’s fa­mous “lip” mo­tif shows up on the pack­ag­ing and is em­bossed on some of the pal­ettes.

Man Ray ex­pert Wendy Gross­man, an art his­to­rian, cu­ra­tor and au­thor who has published mul­ti­ple works on the artist, says the sur­re­al­ist-in­flected Nars makeup col­lec­tion is a suc­cinct crash course on the artist’s ground­break­ing ap­proach to beauty. On the next page, she dis­sects his last­ing im­pact on the worlds of fash­ion and beauty.

On Man Ray’s love of the close-up

“Man Ray paid close at­ten­tion to the way in which his mod­els were made up. And his rad­i­cal crop­ping aes­thetic led to dra­matic images of lips, eyes and hands, all of which draw the viewer’s at­ten­tion to the com­po­nents of the body most en­hanced through the use of makeup.”

On his ob­ses­sion with lips

“The lip mo­tif be­gan with Lee Miller, Man Ray’s model, muse and lover from 1929 to 1932. She had beau­ti­ful lips, which were fea­tured in many of his pho­to­graphs. She left him af­ter a tu­mul­tuous af­fair, and he ex­pressed his anger and hurt through an ob­ses­sive fo­cus on her lips.”

On his artis­tic in­flu­ence

“The sur­real ap­peal of many of Man Ray’s pho­to­graphs lie in the way his ethe­real and oth­er­worldly images op­er­ate at the edge of mys­tery and sub­ver­sive – rather than clas­si­cal – beauty. He re­ally was a pi­o­neer in his ap­proach of avant-garde ideas and aes­thet­ics, and I be­lieve his in­flu­ence is very much preva­lent in fash­ion and beauty today.” “The most sig­nif­i­cant muses were (night­club singer, ac­tress and pain­ter) Kiki de Mont­par­nasse, (model turned pho­tog­ra­pher) Lee Miller, (dancer and model) Juliet Browner Man Ray, and model Adri­enne Fidelin. The qual­i­ties of his muses were dis­tinct, and each brought some­thing dif­fer­ent to his work. But his spe­cial tal­ent was to bring out the unique beauty in each of them, and find ways to add a ‘sur­real ap­peal’ in the way he used light­ing, shad­ows, cam­era an­gles to in­fuse his com­po­si­tions with mys­tery and in­trigue.”

On the essence of Man Ray re­flected in the col­lec­tion

“The col­lec­tion fea­tures rich shades, tex­tures and tones that evoke the sur­real ap­peal in some of Man Ray’s most iconic images. For ex­am­ple, the Love Game eye­shadow pal­ette with 12 vi­brant shades is rem­i­nis­cent of Man Ray’s Sur­re­al­ist Chess­board, and show­cases the iconic La Mode Au Congo image with his beloved muse Adri­enne ‘Ady’ Fidelin on the case.”

On the les­sons he could im­part to today’s so­cial me­diaob­sessed gen­er­a­tion

“The same that ev­ery gen­er­a­tion can learn from Man Ray – be in­ven­tive, chal­lenge con­ven­tions. Or as he said, ‘There is no progress in art, just like there is no progress in mak­ing love. There are just dif­fer­ent ways of do­ing it.’”

On why his unique style en­dures

“When he first en­tered the fash­ion sphere, Man Ray re­solved to ‘do some­thing dif­fer­ent’. He brought avant-garde ideas and aes­thet­ics to a more main­stream au­di­ence. The man­ner in which he blurred the line be­tween his com­mer­cial and art pho­tog­ra­phy pi­o­neered an ap­proach that is still ev­i­dent in today’s fash­ion world.”

Three Man Ray works to know

“Noire et Blanche, a provoca­tive com­po­si­tion fea­tur­ing a mask from the Baule peo­ples of Cote d’Ivoire. It has a spe­cial place in my list be­cause of my in­ter­est in the in­ter­sec­tion of Western and non-Western art. Vi­olon d’In­gres: for its witty play on words and mul­ti­ple mean­ings. And the mys­te­ri­ous Rayo­graphs, which saw him cre­ate his pho­to­graphic prints by lay­ing ob­jects di­rectly on top of pho­to­sen­si­tive paper – they op­er­ate as an enig­matic space be­tween rep­re­sen­ta­tion and ab­strac­tion.”

On Man Ray’s muses

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