Confusingly, a number of works by Man Ray are titled Pain peint ('painted bread'). The first, made in1 958 and consisting of a set of scales of the kind once common in grocery shops and carrying two blue loaves of bread, is in the Australian National Gallery. The loaves lie across both baskets, frustrating the scales' balance. A second version of the work was made in 1960 for Cordier and Ekstrom, New York, and carries three loaves in its panniers. The same title is also applied to single loaves of blue-coloured bread, which were made by Man Ray in small editions either in polyurethane or plaster as required.1
When Man Ray first made Pain peint in 1958 he used stale loaves of bread and simply covered them with blue paint. But according to Man Ray, 'mice ate through the paint and the stale baguette'.2 The loaves in the Australian National Gallery's work are replacements made in plaster in 1964 when the work was purchased by Arturo Schwarz. The first loaf is inscribed underneath 'PAIN PEINT 59 / lere serie replique 1/4' and the second loaf is inscribed 'pain peint / lere serie replique - 2/4'.
Because of the play on homophones in the French title, Man Ray did not want it literally translated for English catalogues or books. He therefore gave it the alternative English title Blue bred and a subtitle, 'Favourite food for blue birds'. According to Arturo Schwarz, Man Ray mentioned that Pain peint is also 'an onomatopoeic representation of the firemen's motor-horns'.3
Michael Lloyd & Michael Desmond European and American Paintings and Sculptures 1870-1970 in the Australian National Gallery 1992 p.142.
- A series of single blue loaves was made in 1960; the material was painted polyurethane and the edition was nine. Another group was produced in 1964, in painted plaster in an edition of four, and yet another in 1966, again in polyurethane and again in an edition of nine.
- Sanche de Gramont, 'Remember Dada - Man Ray at 80', New York Times Magazine, 6 September 1970; pp.6-7, 25-34.
- Arturo Schwarz, Man Ray: The Rigour of Imagination, London: Thames and Hudson, 1977, p.199.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010