A painter, sculptor, and photographer, Man Ray was associated with the Surrealists in Paris throughout the 1920s and 1930s. In keeping with the movement’s desire to defamiliarize the everyday through found objects, he has transformed this petrified sea horse— once moist and supple—from small to monumental, active to static, and harmless to monstrous.
Inscription: Photographer's stamp on print, verso, twice, LC; LR: "ÉPREUVE ORIGINALE // Atelier Man Ray // PARIS"; "MAN RAY // Paris"; dated in ink on print, verso, LR: "1930"; inscribed in pencil on print, verso LC; LR: "77-2-11"; "39607"; initialed in pencil on print, verso C: "MR"
[Robert Miller Gallery, New York]; John C. Waddell (May 9, 1983)
Jewish Museum, New York. "Alias Man Ray," November 15, 2009–March 14, 2010.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Johnson Gallery, Selections from the Collection 68," June 8, 2015–October 5, 2015.
The title "Histoire naturelle" stems from the caption accompanying the publication of this image in Man Ray's La Photographie n'est pas l'art, Paris: GLM, 1937, with text by André Breton. See also Christopher Phillips' preparatory notes explaining that "Natural History" presumably refers obliquely to Max Ernst's frottage drawings of 1926 bearing the same title and portraying human, animal and plant forms with startling textural surfaces brought about by the frottage technique. Phillips cites Herbert Molderings, "Man Rays Die Fotografie ist nicht Kunst," Fotogeschichte, no. 19, 1986, pp. 29-40; Sam Wagstaff, "The Wagstaff Ten," American Photographer, May 1986, pp. 62-69. [Compare photo by Jean Painlevé - Paris, "Cheval marin," pl. 85 in Photographie (Arts et Métiers Graphiques), 1936.]