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The Rope Dancer Accompanies Herself with Her Shadows

The Rope Dancer Accompanies Herself with Her Shadows

Man Ray (in 1928-1940)

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Title The Rope Dancer Accompanies Herself with Her Shadows
Material and technique Vintage gelatin silver print on fibre-based paper
Object type
Photograph > Two-dimensional object > Art object
Location This object is in storage
Dimensions Height 11,5 cm
Width 8,5 cm
Artists Artist: Man Ray
Accession number 3502 (MK)
Credits Purchased with the support of Mondriaan Fund, 2002
Department Modern Art
Acquisition date 2002
Creation date in 1928-1940
Entitled parties © Man Ray Trust / ADAGP, c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2018
Provenance Nelly van Doesburg-Van Moorsel; Wies van Moorsel; on loan from the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands 1999-2002
Exhibitions Rotterdam 2017b
Internal exhibitions Surreëel: foto's uit de collectie van Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen (2011)
Collectie - surrealisme (2017)
External exhibitions Dal nulla al sogno (2018)
Research Show research A dream collection - Surrealism in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen
Literature Penrose 1975, pp. 46-48, fig. 20
Gelatine silver print > Bromide print > Photographic printing technique > Mechanical > Planographic printing > Printing technique > Technique > Material and technique

Entry catalogue A dream collection - Surrealism in Museum Boijmans Van beuningen

Author: Marijke Peyser

This 1920 photograph references an earlier work by Man Ray with the same title, an aerograph dating from 1918.[1] In turn the aerograph was based on a monumental oil painting of 1916 with the same title. In the aerograph we can make out the figure of a rope dancer. She balances on a rope between four light sources which create as many shadows. The black, white and light brown colours for the background were airbrushed in. The Rope Dancer Accompanies Herself with Her Shadows formed the break from his Cubist period.

In his autobiography Self Portrait (1963) Man Ray wrote about the history of the development of the picture on which the photograph and the aerograph were based: ‘The subject was a rope dancer I had seen in a vaudeville show. I began by making sketches of various positions of acrobatic forms, each on a different sheet of spectrum-coloured paper. … After several changes in my composition I was less and less satisfied. It looked too decorative and might have served as a curtain for the theatre. Then my eyes turned to the pieces of coloured paper that had fallen to the floor. They made an abstract pattern that might have been the shadows of the dancer or an architectural subject, according to the trend of one’s imagination if he were looking for a representative motive.’[2]

In April 1916 Man Ray took part in the first exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists in New York with this painting. However we do not know how great the visitors’ powers of imagination were. Was it clear that the rope dancer, with her outstretched arms, literally had the ropes, and with them her own shadow, in her hands? After The Rope Dancer there was a period in which Man Ray gave his creativity free rein. He made assemblages, refined his aerographs and broadened his inventiveness in his collages. Not long after that he began to concentrate exclusively on photography.



[1] Man Ray probably took the photograph in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen’s collection as a record when he was preparing for his move to Paris in 1920.

[2] Man Ray 1963, pp. 66-67.

Show research A dream collection - Surrealism in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen
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