Larmes, or Glass Tears is a famous photograph by Man Ray, a black and white image that looks almost like a film still (which demonstrates his interest in cinematic narrative).
The model was an unnamed can-can dancer and the photo is an extreme close-up of her eyes and mascara-coated lashes looking upward in distress, while glass droplets are placed on her cheeks to imitate tears.
This photo was taken in Paris between in 1932, during a difficult time in the artist’s life, soon after his break-up with Lee Miller.
An art historian wrote that Ray wanted to “emulate the melodrama that compensated for the lack of dialogue in silent films” and to liken the model’s eyes to “insect-like creatures with hundreds of legs”. Another critic wondered whether the image was “ridiculing female crocodile tears, or pouring scorn on the men who are taken in by such sentimentalism”.
The woman’s false tears may relate to that sad period in the artist’s life and the breakup of his relationship with Elizabeth Lee Miller, a fashion and fine art photographer, who had been a fashion model in New York City in the 1920s before going to Paris. She arrived there in 1929 and immediately sought out the surrealist artist and told him she wanted to become his apprentice
At first, he refused to take a student, but Miller soon became his model and photographic assistant, as well as his lover and muse.
They lived together from 1929 to 1932 and this resulted in some of the most powerful works of their careers.
The turning point was in 1932, when Ray found her trying to reuse some of the negatives he had discarded. Furious, he sent her away and she reacted by buying a ticket home to New York. When he realized what he had done, he went into a deep depression.
He expressed his despair through art and made some of his most well-known work, such as Glass Tears, or “Les Amoureux — A L’Heure De L’Observatoire” (The Lovers – Observatory Time), the famous image of his lost love’s lips floating over Paris observatory against the morning sky, a painting on which he worked for two years 💋.
When he realized that the pain was becoming unbearable, he decided to create a piece that would force him to “break her up”.
He created the metronome: the combination of a wooden metronome and a photograph: Lee Miller’s eye. When he published a drawing of this object in the avant-garde journal ‘This Quarter’, edited by André Breton, he wrote these instructions: “Legend, Cut out the eye from a photograph of one who has been loved but is seen no more. Attach the eye to the pendulum of a metronome and regulate the weight to suit the tempo desired. Keep doing to the limit of endurance. With a hammer well-aimed, try to destroy the whole at a single blow.” He titled the assemblage “Object to be Destroyed”
After the piece was destroyed in 1957, Man Ray remade it in multiple copies under the name of “Indestructible Object”.
Image: Man Ray – Larmes (www.getty.edu/art/collection/objects/37756/man-ray-larmes-tears-american-about-1932)