Getty Research Institute buys dozens of Man Ray datebooks


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The Getty has long been a leading resource for Man Ray scholars, with some 300 photographs at the museum and some 700 letters at the Getty Research Institute. But two recent acquisitions by the research institute--packed with more letters, photographs, ephemera and, most important, dozens of the artist’s datebooks--give a more intimate look at his daily life and daydreaming.

‘The nude is always in fashion,’ wrote the highly versatile Surrealist artist, who valued his painting more than his photography despite the success of the latter. Then he jotted beneath it in the same datebook: ‘All that is modern today will be old-fashioned and ridiculous tomorrow. But some of the tricks of today may be the truths of tomorrow.’


That aphorism-packed notebook, a small Pepys Westminster planner for the year 1953 that the artist actually used for several years to record his thoughts and ideas for projects, came from a private New York collector. The Getty purchased the other agendas (also for an undisclosed price) from the heirs of the artist’s friends Michael and Elsa Combe-Martin.

The larger group of planners, used more for scheduling purposes, covers 27 years, including the period from 1923 to 1940 when the artist lived in Paris during the heyday of Surrealism. Various entries for appointments and photo assignments document the wealth of artists, writers and intellectuals who traveled in Man Ray’s circles.

‘The datebooks show just how rich his associations in Paris were at that time,’ said John Tain, assistant curator at the research institute. ‘One day he sees André Breton, the next it’s Picasso, the next it’s Hemingway. It’s like his version of ‘Midnight in Paris.’ ‘

At this point, only the Centre Pompidou in Paris has more Man Ray materials, Tain added. ‘When he and then [his wife] Juliet passed away, that’s where most material ended up as payment for estate taxes. But we have the premier holdings in the U.S.’ --Jori Finkel


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