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Australia 1911 – 1992

Rayograph 1937 Materials & Technique: photographs, gelatin silver photograph

Primary Insc: Signed & dated recto, l.r., pencil, "- Max Dupain '37 -" Titled verso, u.c., pen, "Rayograph - 1940".
Dimensions: printed image 37.3 h x 30.5 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1983
Accession No: NGA 83.1163

Dupain had been familiar with the work of Man Ray and the Surrealists since at least 1931, by which time Ray’s photographs were being seen in print in Australia. In 1935, Dupain’s love of Man Ray’s work was declared in his review for a monograph on the Paris-based American Surrealist’s work, published in The Home. An interest in the pictorial or stylistic possibilities of Surrealism can be seen in Dupain’s work as early as 1933. He wasn’t so much concerned with the Surrealists’ interest in the unconscious and the worlds of dreams and desire, but with the way that Man Ray especially engaged with photography’s particular properties: chemistry, light, tonal relationships, image ‘selection’. For Dupain, Man Ray’s pictures ‘crystallised a new experience in light and chemistry’. Dupain was particularly drawn to Man Ray’s cameraless ‘Rayographs’, a form of photogram, especially the way they reduced ‘the whole object complex … to simple terms by simple technical means’. In the hands of masters like Man Ray, photograms became quite magical, often abstracted records of shifting light, the spirit of which Dupain has captured here.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra