Maxime Alexandre (Primary Title)

Man Ray, American, 1890 - 1976 (Artist)

Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 7 × 4 15/16 in. (17.78 × 12.54 cm)

The French poet Maxime Moses Alexandre (1899–1976) was born into a liberal Jewish family in the Alsatian village of Wolfisheim, near the German border, and spent most of his life in Strasbourg. In 1923 he met fellow poet Louis Aragon, who encouraged him to move to Paris to pursue his literary career. The following year, Alexandre joined the nascent Surrealist cause and was an enthusiastic participant in the group’s activities until 1932. Man Ray’s portrait, which was made to accompany a list of available publications by Alexandre in the Librarie José Corti’s Livres et publications surréalistes catalogue, presents an insightful image of the writer in a moment of quiet intensity before his break with the Surrealist group. Alexandre’s commitment to Communism and solidarity with Louis Aragon, who was expelled by André Breton for his political convictions in 1932, led to his departure from the movement in the same year. Like Aragon, Alexandre believed that Surrealism could only become a truly revolutionary movement if it aligned itself with the Communist Party, whose dogmatic promotion of social realism in art and literature was antithetical to the Surrealists’ belief in freedom of expression. 

Inscribed in an unidentified hand in graphite on verso: "2106/ 9 / D.C. 133/ Sans [?] filét [?]/ [underlined] "540". Inscribed, possibly by the photographer, in graphite on verso: "Alexandre/ 4180". Various reduction notations and numbers in an unidentified hand in graphite on verso.
Arthur and Margaret Glasgow Endowment
Man Ray: The Paris Years, VMFA, October 30, 2021 – February 21, 2022

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