Studio Man Ray and Sonia Delaunay

Text by Valter Rossi from Life is a sign

Man Ray

The suggestion of the Hotel Esmeralda was given to us by Man Ray, an American painter and photographer, who, already at the first meeting, understood how much we were in love and immediately saw us at ease in his imaginative and unconventional studio-house. Place absolutely out of the thinkable canons.

On that first day we tried to surprise each other with facts and jokes that belonged to us closely. It was spontaneous, as can happen with long-time friends; it almost felt like a game.

Man Ray loved to surprise you, his gaze, as a true observer, captured our every gesture and established, with a few flashes, a path as an expert director, putting us to the test with wit, having the opportunity to evaluate and establish how much of his time to dedicate to you.

During one of our funny conversations, in the company of Eleonora and Juliet, wife and model of his most beautiful photographs, I was sitting, by chance, in front of him.

 At a certain moment I had the sensation that something was moving around me, causing me, almost, a nuisance.

The conversation was so interesting that it didn't allow me to delve into what it really was.

Curiosity, which has always been my Achilles heel, prevailed at a certain point and I stopped to ascertain the reason for this sensation.

Behind me, from a small sheet of paper pinned to the wall with two pins, a very long hair emerged which, strangely, pointed in the direction of my ear. It was as if it touched me: so that was the annoyance; I moved to avoid it. Only then did I realize that the hair had been drawn, with care and precision, by Man Ray to evaluate the reactions of those who sat in that position.

I deserved 10 and praise.

We probably entered its focus immediately. We set up absolutely original and frequent meetings that led to a first phase of work in which Eleonora was personally involved. Which deserved the dedication in the first print: "Bravo, Eleonora, pour les hombres 28.11.72".

We also managed to make a large engraving-serigraphy entitled “Decantatore '72” (Graphic Presences) with difficulty. It was unthinkable for Man Ray to come to Rome.

We did not yet have a “walking studio” to be able to make such a large image. We were forced to travel continuously between Rome and Paris, solving all the difficulties.

It was a great surprise to see that a great artist of his level had such a small market at that time. I was happy to be among the people who appreciated him, dedicating our time to him with joy, hoping to help spread his image in the world of graphics.

Unexpectedly, around the brilliant artist, new presences appeared that took away that simple naturalness that made his minimal participation in the market disinterested. Skilled merchants saw the possibility of replicating in multiples some object, created with his hands, years ago.

In the various visits we made, these replicas became more and more numerous, taking away, in my opinion, that dreamy air of which the originals were full, beyond their disconcerting simplicity.

It was certainly a useful operation, if only because it allowed the brilliant couple to live the last years of their life in a dreamed-of comfort, finally achieved. The most important thing was the satisfaction that, in the end, its value had been recognized in concrete terms.

Sonia Delaunay

Sonia Delaunay received us for the first time in her home. His human presence far exceeded his majestic physical presence. She had become so integrated with the poetry of Robert Delaunay, her husband, that, after his death, she had assumed the role of both, continuing with love and surprising personality the painting of Robert.

He showed us many lithographs he had made over time, but we realized they lacked intensity and pictorial substance. From there our research began, even if we were limited by the fact that Sonia wanted to create a lithograph because she knew the technique and it was unthinkable, even for the age of the artist, to propose anything else.

We arrived at the solution using colors mixed by us, very opaque and solid. After each stroke, the pigment in powder or the earth from which the color was born was deposited by gravity on the oily surface of the color. By absorption, it was captured and amalgamated.

After drying, with a very light brush, the superfluous powder was brushed, leaving, as a result, a velvety and consistent color.

When Sonia Delaunay saw the first test she had no doubts in signing it "bon à tirer". He accepted it even before he had it in his own hands, looking at it from the balcony that overlooked his study, from which he rarely tried to get off, due to his now advanced immobility.

This time he demanded to get off immediately.

I still have to dwell on the youthful enthusiasm of this generation of artists which, in the case of Sonia Delaunay, was even more gratifying because in addition to the generous enthusiasm, the analysis of the work was done with such modesty that it surprised us.