3 Sunny Moments from the Collection

Knath_The Sun

Karl Knaths, The Sun, 1950. Oil on canvas, 36 x 42 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, Acquired 1950

Dove_Red Sun

Arthur Dove, Red Sun, 1935. Oil on canvas, 20 1/4 x 28 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, Acquired 1935

Phillips_Sun at Twilight

Marjorie Phillips, Sun at Twilight, 1959. Oil on canvas, 39 1/4 x 28 3/4 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, Acquired 1985

 

Man Ray’s Shakespearean Equations: All’s Well That Ends Well

alls_well_ends_well_trilogy

(left) Mathematical Object: Algebraic Surface of Degree 4, c. 1900. Wood, 3 1/8 x 2 3/8 in. Made by Joseph Caron. The Institut Henri Poincaré, Paris, France. Photo: Elie Posner (middle) Man Ray, Mathematical Object, 1934-35. Gelatin silver print, 9 1/2 x 11 3/4 in. Courtesy of Marion Meyer, Paris. © Man Ray Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY / ADAGP, Paris 2015 (right) Man Ray, Shakespearean Equation, All’s Well that Ends Well, 1948. Oil on canvas, 16 x 19 7/8 in. Courtesy of Marion Meyer, Paris. © Man Ray Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY / ADAGP, Paris 2015

Defying easy categorization as comedy or tragedy, Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well—with its curious mixture of fairytale logic, gender role reversals, and cynical realism—and Man Ray’s corresponding painting provide a fitting finale to this journey from mathematics to Shakespeare. Removing the wood and metal supports of the mathematical models (seen in the left and middle images above) and placing the untethered forms against an undulating white cloth, Man Ray created a composition in which the objects occupy an ambiguous space between the real and the surreal. These small models find their apotheosis almost a decade later in a 1956 pen-and ink drawing, attesting to the fact that the models he encountered in 1930s Paris continued to haunt and inspire him for years to come. They have gone from three-dimensional objects, once of great utility to mathematicians, into abstract, ethereal forms.

Wendy Grossman, Exhibition Curator

Man Ray’s Shakespearean Equations: As You Like It

Man Ray_As You Like It

Man Ray, As You Like It, 1948. Oil on canvas, mounted in the artist’s frame, 28 1/8 × 24 1/8 in. including frame. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, Gift of Joseph H. Hirshhorn, 1966

As Man Ray launched into his Shakespearean Equations project, he reworked a canvas from 1940 titled Disillusion. Transforming the composition into As You Like It, the artist removed the disembodied hand, changed the globe-like sphere into a celestial form, and encased the floating orb in a rectangular trompe l’oeil frame. Although not inspired by any specific mathematical model, this painting opens a window into the evolution of the Shakespearean Equations series, as Man Ray re-conceptualized geometric forms and introduced them in new contexts.

Wendy Grossman, Exhibition Curator