Man Ray's Montparnasse Hardcover – 24 Sep 2001
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About the Author
Herbert Lottman was born and raised in New York City, but he has lived most of his adult life in France. He first came to Paris as a Fulbright fellow in 1949; when he returned it was to open a European office for an American book publisher. Over the years Lottman has contributed to a number of American newspapers and magazines, including the New York Times, the Herald Tribune, and Harper's Magazine; he is now international correspondent of the book trade journal Publishers Weekly, which has taken him to Asia, Africa, Latin America, nearly everywhere in Europe, and even at times to the United States. Lottman has published a dozen books in the Unites States, the best known of which are Albert Camus: A Biography, The Left Bank: Writers, Artists, and Politics from the Popular Front to the Cold War, and biographies of Philippe Petain, Gustave Flaubert, Colette, and Jules Verne. Most of them have also been published in the United Kingdom and translated into French and Spanish; a number have also appeared in German, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Polish, and Czech.
Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Little did I know it would explode with stories and much interesting stories (I'm no historian and cannot verify their accuracy) and anecdotes about the photographer Man Ray and all his notorious friends & lovers in the pre WWII era of Montparnasse when Dada and Surrealism were taking hold. As I had spent so many hours wandering the same streets and sitting in the same cafes it really grabbed me and was a very interesting read.
In short, if you: (any or all of the below)-
Love Paris; plan to go there; have interest in the "lost generation/cafe society" era of Paris and particularly Montparnasse (one of my favorite areas in Paris);
then you are crazy if you don't at least check this book out. I'll use it for reference on my Montparnasse cafe crawls when I return next year.
The reader learns about the different bars/clubs that were important. He learns who met where; the locations of various artist studios; and the general feel of the era. The dissent in the da da movement and the surrealist movement was significant.
Man Ray's neutral role in all of this is interesting. Lottman makes it appear that obtaining portrait sitters was one of Ray's primary goals. That along with women and his cars.
I enjoyed the book and believe that there is much to be learned from it. Caveat: If there are historicals errors as the other reviewer mentions, then it is difficult to know what you can and cannot believe.
Lottman has done a marvelous job of combining the many important artists and art movements that mark this time and place into a single readable, but informative book. It makes a nice companion to "KiKi's Paris: Artist and Lovers 1900-1930" (see my review). Unlike that book, which is like a huge family album of photographs of the people who passed through the area at that time in history, this book delves deeper into the personalities that formed the knights of the "rustic wine barrels" serving as the round tables of the "passage de l'Opera" in 1919.
The author picked Man Ray as his connection to all the people described in the book because the gregarious American visitor did what few of the other personalities described could do. He was able to get along with the various stratum of society that inhabited Montparnasse at the time. His camera opened the doors of the Dadaists as well as the mansion gates of high society and the rich aristocrats. Once his reputation with a camera was established, every important visitor to the area wanted to have their portrait made by the American living in Paris. Since he also did a lot of assignments for many of the most important news and fashion magazines of the era, his reputation and location was soon known worldwide. Much to his disgust, but to the benefit of his wallet, having him take your portrait became a status symbol. Despite this economic success he was still able to remain a part of the anti-society, anti-everything Dada movement.
People liked Man Ray and they liked having their pictures taken too. Everyone it seemed liked to have him take his or her picture. May Ray of course, didn't consider photography an art and considered himself to be primarily a serious painter.
The strength of this book is how the author manages to paint so many interesting biographical portraits and yet have them all interact in the geographic jumble that was Montparnasse. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book.