As cliché as it may sound, I really wish I had lived in Paris during the 20’s. Is that too much to ask? I went to see Man Ray’s Portraits show at the National Portrait Gallery and I left wishing I could have been someone’s muse or actress or model back then. Maybe I could have been a genius myself and Gertrude Stein would have taken me under her wing; I would have gone to Pamplona with Hemingway; drank champagne with the Fitzgeralds: if she were nice, I would have even warned Picasso’s first wife, Olga that she was going to be ditched for Marie-Therese… oh all the things I would have done!
But Paris in the 20’s wasn’t just about the people; the ex-pat geniuses that congregated after the war to unleash themselves into an “erotic independent-mindedness”. All those traditions of café gatherings, experimental friendships, passionate love affairs, and the city’s energy were the perfect setting for the unimaginable ripple of avant-garde artist movements that are classics today.
As its title suggests, there were 150 of Man Ray’s best portraits taken during his extensive career. He died when he was 86, did you know? You probably didn’t; but then again neither did I. Did you know that surrounding yourself with art, making art, prolongs life? It’s true. Picasso was 91 when he died, Miro was 90, Duchamp was 81, Dali was 84, Brancusi was 81, Chagall was 97… the list goes on. For the first time, I matched faces to great names, and these artists that I admire so much became human. Man Ray captured their essence, their volatility, in an almost theatrical way. The different phases into which his work was divided always featured his lover of the moment – no surprise there. However, Kiki de Montparnasse and Lee Miller were always his leading ladies. Maybe a ‘must’ for Paris in 20’s was to have a heart of stone, as it was bound to be broken more than once by all these revolutionary visionaries. In that case, I’ll just admire the era and be glad I was born in the 80’s.
“…The power of photography keeps ghosts circulating amongst us” making “Man Ray’s portraits a galactic pantheon of twentieth-century personae”.
Don’t miss it.
Travel changes lives & Art prolongs it.
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