In the early 1930s, in fact, Man Ray made perhaps his most famous painting, and one of the most prominent Surrealist canvases ever. Titled Observatory Time: The Lovers (1932–34), the picture is anchored by long, lush red lips, spotlit and bowed at the center. They float in a densely clouded sky above a dark, forested landscape. “It’s an incredibly sexy and melancholic painting,” said Di Donna.
Man Ray returned to filmmaking—with greater skill than he’d had in New York. His films reflect the eroticism and the Dada and Surrealist aesthetics that pervade his larger oeuvre. Emak Bakia (1926) juxtaposes montages of rayographs with footage of swirling lights, a swiveling sculpture, a woman’s calves and feet as she dances, and Kiki de Montparnasse’s upside-down, distorted head. The film, like a Dada collage or a Surrealist montage designed to tap into the subconscious, gives viewers visual puzzle pieces that they must assemble in order to create meaning.