Lee Miller and Man Ray at a Paris shooting gallery, c.1930

Man Ray's Portraits: first major retrospective

Britain's National Portrait Gallery to host the first major retrospective of the American surrealist's portraiture

The National Portrait Gallery might seem to some people the most conservative of Britain's grand art institutions. After all, the museum tends to select works on the significance of the sitter, rather than the artist. However, beneath Portland Stone and tight historical brief there lies plenty of challenging yet truly beautiful works, and next year a few of them will get a dust down when the gallery puts on the first Man Ray exhibition dedicated to the surrealist photographer's portraits.

The American photographer and artist - born Emmanuel Radnitzky – produced paintings and sculptures, but also took commercial portraits and fashion shoots for Vogue, Vanity Fair and Harper's Bazaar, and so, while much of his work was pioneering, it also featured plenty of famous faces. Portraits of Virginia Woolf and Aldous Huxley reside in the gallery's permanent collection, these will be joined by better-known portraits, such as this solarised picture of Lee Miller. Nevertheless, don't expect a celeb-fest.

As Sandy Nairne, director of the National Portrait Gallery explains: “Man Ray was a fascinating and complex figure, and one of the great artists of the 20th century. These are really important portraits we want people to have a chance to see. While some of the images will be extremely well known, others will not.” The exhibition opens February 7, and runs until the end of May 2013.