Lee Miller

LBF and I went to the Lee Miller exhibition at the V&A today, and utterly great it was too..

I’ve been a big fan of hers for some time now, especially since seeing “The Surrealist and the Photographer” exhibition in Edinburgh about 5 years ago, where there was a good collection of her pictures alongside the paintings of husband Roland Penrose. She was an exceptionally gifted photographer and sadly overshadowed by others even as a war photographer (I rate her higher than Capa, for example, which I concede may be heresy). Part of that may be down to the fact that she was a great beauty and one who didn’t play the game—one imagines that she was much more at home leading a man’s life than being a trophy.

There was also a powerful sense of the restless and dissatisfied in her. Her life was marked by phases and one senses boredom setting in just before each phase change—the move to Paris, the flight to Egypt, roaming Romania with Penrose, the war, the years at Farley Farm, and the final abandoning of photography (and switching to obsessive cookery to fill the void). She can’t have been an easy woman to be with for very long.

The war was, I think, her crowning, happiest period. She was free then from her beauty and living in a man’s world, dirty, hard-drinking but full of shared experiences, good and bad. Everything was downhill from there, one feels.

Top pictures:

* a row of lifeboats aboard a liner
* the floating head of Mary Taylor
* ‘a picture of space’, looking out of the tent in Egypt
* the view from the top of the great pyramid
* an unusual one of Hampstead Fair in 1949 which put me in mind of Klee’s “Black Prince”
* the hilarious set from Vogue entitled “Working Guests” which depict the likes of Max Ernst and Saul Steinberg being dragooned into household and famyard chores by the dictatorial Miller, who finally lies, slumped asleep like an old tramp, on the sofa, while the work is being done elsewhere.

Terrific exhibition and one well worth a visit. Or two.

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