Finestre sull'arte, October 25, 2022
From November 5th 2022 to April 10th 2023 Palazzo Franchetti in Venice presents the exhibition Lee Miller-Man Ray. Fashion, Love, War, curated by Victoria Noel-Johnson, produced and organized by CMS.Cultura in collaboration with ACP-Art Capital Partners Palazzo Franchetti; main sponsor Gruppo Unipol.
There will be about 140 photographs of Lee Miller and Man Ray, some art objects and video documents, thanks to the collaboration of Lee Miller Archives and the Marconi Foundation. Visitors can admire the shots of this great photographer and understand the contribution she made not only as a muse of Man Ray, but especially as a professional. He often forgets that it was she who discovered, by chance, and inspired him the photographic technique of Solarization that Man Ray adopted as an artistic signature.
Model, photographer, muse, first woman war reporter to document the horrors of concentration camps liberated by American troops, icon of the twentieth century. Lee Miller was all this and much more, she went through life with passion and determination. And life has reciprocated it with love and friends, but also with pain and recognition posthumously or at least late. Now an exhibition will do justice to this woman as beautiful as bright and talented removing her from the shadow of Man Ray that has always accompanied her to reveal their relationship as deep as complicated: Man Ray, first his teacher, then love and finally great friend. The aim of the exhibition is also to offer the right recognition to Lee Miller, pioneer of surrealism in photography, placing her on an equal footing with Man Ray, whose work tended to obscure it both in life and in the years to come. The exhibition that opens with the diptych of Lee Miller and Man Ray (Man Ray, self-portrait, 1931 and Man Ray, Lee Miller, 1929) is divided into a chronological and thematic path.
The audience is welcomed by a section dedicated to Lee Miller as a model and muse in the twenties, when she casually meets the famous publisher Condé Nast who makes her a model of Vogue, and George Lepape, the main fashion illustrator of those years, who portrays her face for a cover of Vogue (USA) of 1927 launching her as a style icon. Miller decides to leave New York to return to Paris and follow his passion for photography.
During her time in Paris, she worked with George Hoyningen-Huené, a famous Vogue photographer, who photographed her in tracksuit and tennis shoes, and in the famous shot The Divers, one of the most iconic fashion in the 20th century chosen by Anna Wintour among her five favorites in the long history of Vogue, in which Lee Miller poses back on a pier together with Horst P.Horst. Lee draws avidly from every inspiration and provocation from the artistic and cultural background that precedes the 1929 meeting with Man Ray, in that Parisian avant-garde of the twenties that welcomed and launched some of the great names in art history.
The focus of the exhibition is the relationship between Lee Miller and man Ray blossomed in Paris in 1929, and ended in 1932, with a focus their lives, careers and relationships at that time. The audience will notice the inspiration that both exerted on each other, including the Solarization photography technique that Man ray made his own. There will also be exposed portraits taken by Man Ray of friends and great protagonists of that artistic season: Max Ernst, Pablo Picasso, Giorgio de Chirico, Jean Cocteau, Salvador Dalì and surrealist shots to Lee Miller in which he tries ti investigate and reveal her soul, her torments, using the camera as a tool, as if to break down her icy body by portraying the nape, neck, shoulders. Also are exposed some unforgettable shots to the artist friends Dora Maar and Meret Oppenheim.
The photograph The Neck is also from 1930. In the same year Jean Cocteau involved Lee Miller in his surrealist film Le sang d'un poète, an avant-garde film in which Lee, strewn with chalk, plays a classical-inspired statue.
The exhibition also deals, through a wide selection of photos, both portraits and commercial advertisements, the period after the relationship with Ray, when Miller in 1932 returns to New York to open his own photography studio, at the time the first founded and managed by a female photographer. At that time, Man Ray, blinded by the pain of his separation from Lee, replaced in 1933 the eye on the arm of his famous metronome Perpetual Motif with that of his beloved. The section focuses on the surrealist creations of Lee Miller up to the shots of the famous "surrealist holidays" of the summer of 1937 between Cornwall and the south of France together with Max Ernst, E.L.T.Mesens, Man Ray and Leonora Carrington in addition to Pablo Picasso, Dora Maar and Elieen Agar and with what will become her second husband, the British surrealist artist Roland Penrose.
A section is then dedicated to Egypt. In 1934 Lee Miller marries the Egyptian businessman Aziz Eloui Bey and follows him to his homeland where he is fascinated by the desert panorama, the villages and the testimonies of past civilizations as shown by the numerous shots, of great charm and atmosphere like the famous Portrait of Space with its tent or mosquito net torn to infinity that inspired René Magritte to paint Le baiser in 1938. A wedding destined to last little, partly due to the acquaintance in Paris of Roland Penrose and the subsequent move to London, where he works as a photographer of Vogue, and it is right on the pages of the famous glossy magazine that gives rise to shots dedicated to fashion and society columns with lights and surrealist cuts that draw on his previous life and his connection with Man Ray.
Finally the drama of World War II, Lee Miller is war correspondent and photojournalist for Vogue. During the war he documented tragic events such as the London Blitz, the liberation of Paris and the concentration camps of Buchenwald and Dachau. In 1944, she was credited as an American Army correspondent and collaborated with Time Life photographer David E. Scherman. Within this section, in addition to the iconic shot of Lee Miller in Hitler’s bathtub, also a wide selection of her works with surrealist cut, and photos of important artists and old friends, such as Picasso and Jean Cocteau in Paris, she met shortly after the end of the conflict.
Throughout the exhibition the fil rouge is dedicated to the relationship between Lee Miller and Man Ray and the evolution from love into friendship, which lasted for almost fifty years, parallel to the reciprocal marriages with Aziz Eloui, Roland Penrose and Juliet Browner. Ray will be particularly close to Miller during the period in which he suffers from chronic depression, also due to a sort of post-traumatic disorder due to the horrors she had witnessed during the Second World War.
The catalogue, published by Skira, is edited by Victoria Noel-Johnson with texts by Ami Bouhassane, co-director of the Lee Miller Archives (and grandson of Lee Miller) and Antony Penrose (only son of Lee Miller) that promote the knowledge of the figure of Lee Miller. It is due to Suzanna, the late wife of Anthony Penrose the random discovery in the attic of over 60 thousand photographs, negatives, documents, magazines, correspondences and memorabilia, the rediscovery of the many lives of Lee Miller.
Released in spring 2023 at the cinema the biopic Lee, with the screenplay based on the biography of Antony Penrose Lee Miller’s lives dedicated to Lee Miller, on the occasion of the forty-five years since her death. In the cast, to play Lee Miller would be Kate Winslet and Jude Law as her husband Roland Penrose, as well as Marion Cotillard as Solange D'Ayen, the fashion director of Vogue France.
For info:
Hours: Every day from 10 to 18. Closed on Tuesdays.
Image: George Hoyningen-Huené, Lee Miller, detail (1932). Credit George Hoyningen-Huené Summer Archives
Palazzo Franchetti dedica una mostra a Lee Miller e al suo legame con Man Ray