Lee Miller was discovered by Condé Montrose Nast, as he stopped her walking in front of a car in Manhattan at age 19, she went on to become one of the most sought after models of her day, before her interest moved to working behind the camera. In 1929 Lee travelled to Paris to convince a reluctant Man Ray to take her on as a student. There she grew heavily involved in the surrealist movement, becoming Man Ray’s muse and lover, and counting Pablo Picasso, Paul Éluard, and Jean Cocteau amongst her circle.
By Dimitris Lempesis
Photo: Kulturhuset Stadsteatern Archive
While Lee Miller’s photographic work, both professional and artistic, has been heavily documented, a new exhibition focuses primarily on her work as a fashion photographer, “Lee Miller-War and Fashion” features several photographs that have never before been shown in public. After WWII she settled in Sussex with her husband, the British Surrealist Roland Penrose, in 1947, but continued to play host to, and photograph, artistic giants of the 20th century: Pablo Picasso, Max Ernst, Joan Miro, Henry Moore. She also, according to her son Antony Penrose, became a very difficult person to be around, and a poor mother. Suffering post-traumatic stress disorder after what she had witnessed during the war, Miller turned to drink. “For 20 years of my life she was an alcoholic, and a depressive, and that’s difficult for a kid. We became really embattled and we fought like crazy”, he says. After she died at the age of 70 in 1977, the wife of her son Antony Penrose found a hoard of pictures which Lee Miller had hidden away, repressed and ignored. She didn’t say much about her career as a fashion photographer, and neither did anyone else, since portrayals of war outshine narratives of fashion. But nothing impacts on fashion as profoundly as wars. The destruction of war causes everyday situations that lead not only to change but also to renewal in fashion. Fashion is a litmus paper for its own era, revealing everything from social circumstances to ideas about the future.
Info: Kulturhuset Stadsteatern, Sergels torg, Stockholm, Duration: 8/9/17-4/3/18, Days & Hours: Mon-Fri 9:00-19:00, Sat-Sun 11:00-17:00, www.kulturhusetstadsteatern.se