Lee Miller, on the front of English surrealism | Culture

Lee Miller, on the front of English surrealism | Culture


Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí entered the big door of surrealism in 1929 after the premiere The Andalusian dog,the brief and shocking film in which the eye of the protagonist was dissected. That same year, the American photographer Lee Miller (1907-1977) created a diptych with two photographs of another dissection: the breast of a woman cut after a mastectomy that she placed as if it were food on a plate that served on a tablecloth; a disgusting image that shows the amputated organ that criticized the reification and commodification of women. These and other images of Miller -which started as a model but ended up on the other side of the camera-, which was related to artists like Man Ray with whom he started as assistant, but also with Max Ernst, Leonora Carrington, Yves Tanguy, Henry Moore , Eileen Agar, Paul Nash, Giorgio de Chirico, Rene Magritte, Joan Miró or Roland Penrose, with whom he married, earned him his full right to this subversive and radical movement.

Miller and his works populated with fragmented bodies and juxtapositions and his surrealist friends star in the exhibition Lee Miller and Surrealism in Britain, which opens tomorrow at the Joan Miró Foundation of Barcelona (financed by the BBVA Foundation, until January 20) and which analyzes the introduction of the movement on the British scene before the Second World War until the 1950s.

Miller's unique images dialogue with about 200 works created by artists who he photographed and with whom he exhibited on multiple occasions. "And they allow us to see the vibrant English period and the connections between them to show that they shared experiences and influences," according to curator Eleanor Clayton of the British museum The Hepworth Wakefield, where the show has already been shown. The exhibition starts with the first works of Miller, after traveling from the United States to Paris to work with Ray. Together they invented solarization, a new technique in which effects of light and shadow are created, after overexposing a photograph during development.

Painted lips

She and her friends promoted the first international exhibition of surrealism in 1936 in London. If one of Miller's eyes oscillates on the fingerboard created by Ray in 1929 (the one that is heard, insistent, during the visit of the exhibition is a reconstruction of 2004), his lips painted in 1934 also by Ray in À l'heure de l'observatoire-Les Amoureux They floated over the room in which they were shown, and they are in Barcelona, ​​next to works by Salvador Dalí, Henry Moore, Paul Nash, Wolfgang Paalen or Max Ernst.

In the background, the work of Man Ray with the lips of Miller and in the foreground, 'Reclining Figure', by Herny Moore.
In the background, the work of Man Ray with the lips of Miller and in the foreground, 'Reclining Figure', by Herny Moore.

In 1937, the Surreal Objects and Poems at the London Gallery that the Surrealists founded, showing everyday objects in fetish associations. Along with works by Magritte and Agar, Miller presented The kiss, a mannequin arm with a bracelet made with a denture.

In July 1937 Penrose summoned his friends to join "a sudden Surrealist invasion in Cornwall," in southwestern England. Miller documented with his camera the meeting in which Paul Éluard and Nusch, Herbert Read, Eileen Agar, Josep Bard, Max Ernst and Leonora Carrington and Man Ray and his girlfriend Ady were. Miller captured them in full creation, talking, having fun and wandering the Cornish hills. "The friendships forged in those days would mark the life and work of all of them in the following years and show the way of working in a network they had," according to the curator.

At the outbreak of World War II the activity of the group continued. In 1940, the Surrealism Today, weeks after the evacuation of the allied troops of Dunkirk. Miller exhibited the decoration of the country house of Ernst and Carrington and his photos of Romania and Egypt, along with works by Moore, Rimmington and Penrose in which fragmented bodies abounded that foreshadowed the disaster of war.

During the conflict, Miller worked for Vogue, assembling incongruous sets to liven up the limited wardrobe in times of rationing. His work led him to the war report. Miller was a woman without fear. Between 1943 and 1945 he was a war correspondent for the United States. Contravening the order that prohibited the presence of women journalists in combat, he participated in the Normandy landings and accompanied the soldiers in the liberation, taking pictures of desert landscapes and fragmented statues under the rubble.

The reporter who got into Hitler's bathtub

Miller's photograph inside Hitler's bathtub.
Miller's photograph inside Hitler's bathtub.

Lee Miller, like other photographers, visited Hitler's apartment in Munich after the news of his suicide spread in April 1945. But only she took off her uniform and her muddy boots and got into the dictator's bathtub to make a self-portrait created jointly with his co-worker Dave Scheerman. Once inside, he posed as he did during his years as a model, removing the filth of war, in a careful staging of great provocative effect.

"He created a purely surrealist scenography. He took a framed portrait of Hitler from another room and a classic nude statuette and placed them on either side of the tub so that they would appear in the image. Then he took the portrait of Hitler to his house, "explains curator Eleanor Clayton.

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