The avant-garde photography of Man Ray will go on display in this capital in a large exposition of more than 150 portraits of his muses and friends, including Lee Miller and Pablo Picasso.

"The Portraits of Man Ray," which will open on Thursday at the National Portrait Gallery, is the first showing of his work in Britain.

The exposition traces his life and work from his early years in New York, where he tried unsuccessfully to introduce Dadaism with his friend Marcel Duchamp, through his later years in Paris, where he died in 1976 at age 86.

It was in the French capital, where he moved in 1921 attracted by its artistic movements, that he flourished, surrounded by the great geniuses of modern art, many of whom he captured with his lens.

Although Philadelphia-born Michael Emmanuel Radnitzky considered himself primarily to be a painter, he achieved international recognition for his photography, which he elevated to an art form with elegant, enigmatic images full of content.

Perhaps he produced his most captivating work during his first period in Paris.

During those years of artistic revolution, he photographed creative geniuses such as Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein, Jean Cocteau and Pablo Picasso, the latter of whom appears several times in the portraits going on display.

One of Man Ray's works at the exhibit shows a surrealistic chessboard including Joan Miro, Salvador Dali, Picasso, Max Ernst and Andre Breton.

Although most of the images at the show have been loaned by museums, some are in the personal collections of people like singer Elton John, who provided a beautiful 1936 portrait of Picasso's lover Dora Maar. EFE