Special Interest Day 2

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Day of Special Interest on Tuesday 4th December 2018

The Legendary Lee Miller. 

Witnessing Women at War

Antony Penrose gave a superb rendition of the extraordinary life of his mother Lee Miller.  She was born in New York in 1907 to Theodore and Florence Miller.  Renowned for her great beauty, she became a fashion model and was photographed by the great photographers of the day.  At the age of twenty-two she moved to Paris and mixed with Surrealist artists before eventually setting up her own studio of photography, stating that she would rather make a picture than be one.  As a freelance photographer in London at the outbreak of the Second World War, she shot images for ‘Vogue’ magazine of haute couture in London’s dark bombed out streets.  She photographed and documented the important and amazing work which women contributed during the war.  She showed pictures of women working in factories assembling military shells and working on vehicles.  She documented the magnificent work of the Land Girls, the pilots, the W.R.V.S, the W.R.N.S, the A.T.S, the fire service and especially the nurses.  Over 80,000 women joined the ranks and a great many lost their lives in service.  Now an acclaimed wartime photographer and correspondent, Lee was the only women to cover the front line in Europe. She showed the shaved heads of  women accused of collaboration and harrowing photographs of emaciated bodies in open trucks and of starving children dying in hospitals.  In 1947, the concentration camps were liberated and on the evening of the day she photographed the liberation of Dachau, there is an iconic photograph of her sitting in Hitler’s bath with her army boots by the side.  Later, she photographed the burning of Hitler’s alpine fortress at Obersalzburg.  This story is presented as a homage to the women whose efforts were essential to the allied victor in WW2.   

Lee Miller and Man Ray.

In 1929, Lee met Man Ray.  They were instantly attracted to each other and she became his student, muse and lover. In a close collaboration, they created and photographed Surrealist images.  They discovered, by accident, the art of ‘solarization’ when Lee, inadvertently, turned on the lights in the studio dark room before the negatives were fully developed.  This created a black line around an image giving a ghostly and luminous appearance.  But Lee, in time, felt constrained by Man Ray’s possessiveness.  She refused to marry him and returned to America, whereupon he fell into a deep depression and spent the next two years painting a huge picture of his lost lover’s lips.  In his obsession with Lee, he created a metronome using an image of her eye cut from a photograph and attached to the swinging pendulum with a paper clip.  The intention was then to destroy it with a single blow from a hammer!  Some years later, Lee and Man Ray finally became reunited and remained firm friends for the rest of their lives.

In 1937 Lee met the Surrealist artist Roland Penrose and moved in with him in 1940.  They married and in 1947, their son Antony was born.

Behind the scene at The Lee Miller Archives.

In 1949, Roland and Lee bought Farley Farm house in East Sussex.  They created a home that was more like a perpetual arts congress, and today is a small private museum housing Surrealist images of art and sculpture.  Their many friends, Picasso, Man Ray, Joan Miro, Max Ernst and others were constant visitors and much of their work is on display.  There is also the kitchen where Lee cooked her own colourful gourmet dishes. On Lee’s death in 1977, some sixty- thousand images of her pictorial life were discovered in the attic and painstakingly archived and printed for display.  Antony’s daughter, Ami is his co-director and an author in her own right.  The family manage and run the house and gallery which receives no public funding and is therefore reliant on conducted tours for visitors and sales of books.

Farley’s House, gallery and sculpture garden is open every Sunday from April 7th until 27th October 2019

See Policies page for details of refunds and insurance, etc.