Half Beard Look

February 11, 2023 BY Dan Ariely

Well, it turned out I can’t claim full credit for the ‘Half Beard look’ (no patent for me). A friend of mine, who was visiting the Sigmund Freud Museum in Vienna, sent me the above Man Ray’s self-portrait, which was taken in 1943, when Man Ray was in his fifties.

Man Ray (originally: Emmanuel Radnitzky ) was an American artist who contributed to the Surrealist and the Dada movements. In reading about him I discovered that he sought to keep his personal background far from the public’s eye, even refusing to reveal he was born under a different name. Man Ray moved to Paris in 1921 and lived there until the second world war, when he returned to the States. In 1951, he returned to Paris, where he worked until his death in 1976.

Man Ray’s self-portrait Before and After takes a humorous view. With half of his face shaved, the artist presents himself to the viewer as a sort of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, raising question: Which side of the portrait corresponds most to the subject’s personality? It depicts both past and future events, or rather, the period of time in between that documents what has already-happened as well as that which is yet-to-come.”

Francis Naumann (art dealer, scholar, and curator specializing in Dada and Surrealist art) suggested that shaving half of his face has a connection to his Europe/USA divided identity.