Max Dupain, one of Australia's great modernist photographers, placed Man Ray's importance for photography alongside Cézanne's for painting. Writing for The Home magazine in 1935, Dupain said: "He is alone. A pioneer of the 20th century who has crystallised a new experience in light and chemistry".
This selection of Dupain's work, drawn from the Art Gallery of New South Wales' Collection, illustrates his admiration for Man Ray and is on display from 7 February to 7 March 2004.
Such conviction in Man Ray's work, as unstintingly expressed in this article, is characteristic of Dupain's writing. Yet, more importantly, it highlights the clear influence the artist had on the young Dupain, who was to experiment with elements of Man Ray's style and those of other European photographers, incorporating aspects into his visual vocabulary.
Dupain's article, Man Ray: his place in Modern Photography, focused its discussion on works in a book titled Photographs by Man Ray, 1920 - Paris 1934. He is believed to be the first person in Australia to discuss the work of Man Ray. The volume, published by James Thrall Soby, was the first comprehensive look at the artist's output. Its 104 gravure plates included a diverse selection of Man Ray's work - nudes, landscapes, objects and portraits - and illustrated some of the techniques for which he is renowned, notably solarisation and the Rayograph. The photographs were interspersed with articles by eminent writers such as the surrealist advocator and commentator André Breton, Tristan Tzara and Paul Eluard.
Curator of this Collection highlight, Natasha Bullock, says: "Dupain was impressed by Man Ray's ability to condense compositions down to their simplest elements through the use of light and perspective. Portraits therefore became studies of form and placement, of mass and volume as well as character studies."
Dupain wrote: "Man Ray, in his lust for simplicity, possesses a great capacity to 'select' and 'treat' the most complex of subject matter so that by ingenious lighting systems it is broken down to a design of essential lines and masses. No matter what his subject matter may be, figure, still life, interiors, montage or landscape, his sensitive judgement enables him to control the elements of his design by the selection of viewpoint".
Dupain's article is clear in its admiration of Man Ray's photographs and reveals the affinity Dupain felt for the artist's experimental philosophy in terms of technique and composition. However the ideology behind Man Ray's work, expressed in the specific groupings of works and the accompanying texts, which highlight some of the principles of Dadaism and Surrealism, is not discussed. His understanding of Man Ray's work is exclusively based in the material: in the tone of the print, the use of light and in the lines, forms and masses that distinguish Man Ray's oeuvre.