Lee Miller and Surrealism in Britain

22nd Jun 2018 - 7th Oct 2018

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Lee Miller (1907 – 1977) was one of the most original photographic artists of the 20th century, whose work spanned the fields of fashion, photojournalism and art. Arriving in Paris in 1929 Miller became the artist Man Ray’s apprentice, muse and collaborator and quickly became part of the Surrealist network, creating striking and experimental surrealist photographs.

Lee Miller and Surrealism in Britain will be the first exhibition to explore Miller’s involvement with the surrealist circles in Britain, where the movement burgeoned in the late 1930s. London became the destination for many artists leaving increasingly troubling political situations on the continent in the immediate post-war period, and for a brief but intense time, Britain was a Surrealist centre.
The exhibition will tell the story of Surrealism in Britain through Miller’s lens, focussing on the artists she knew, photographed, and exhibited alongside. It will feature sculptures, paintings, photographs, collages and works on paper by artists including Eileen Agar, Salvador Dalí, Max Ernst, René Magritte, and Henry Moore alongside Miller’s photographs to explore the creative networks and productive collisions during this exciting time.

Miller – along with her later-husband Roland Penrose – played a significant role in the British Surrealist movement of the 1930s. In 1936 Penrose put together an organising committee for the first International Surrealism Exhibition in London, held at New Burlington Gardens and seen by over 23,000 people.
In 1937 Penrose invited a number of artists and writers to a ‘sudden Surrealist invasion’ of Cornwall. Miller and Man Ray’s photographs documenting Penrose, Paul and Nusch Éluard, Leonora Carrington, Max Ernst and ELT Mesens during this creative adventure will be displayed alongside artworks that highlight the shared motifs and creative dialogue between these artists.
During World War II, Miller was employed by British Vogue as a freelance war correspondent. Working with the likes of David E. Scherman, Miller captured thought-provoking images of Hitler’s secret apartments and the harrowing atrocities of wartime living with her particular surrealist eye. A selection of these photographs including Lee Miller in Hitler’s Bathtub (1945) will be displayed, alongside her unique surrealist take on fashion and commercial photography from the same period
After the war, Miller settled with husband Roland Penrose at ‘Farleys’ on Farley Farm in Sussex, continuing her practice as a photographer. They also continued their role as catalysts in bringing together surrealist artists. A series of humorous photographs of artists including Max Ernst, Henry Moore and Dorothea Tanning put to ‘work’ at Farley Farm was Miller’s last big photographic feature published in Vogue, titled ‘Working Guests’ 1953.

A publication, Lee Miller and Surrealism in Britain, will be produced to accompany the exhibition. It is edited by curator, Eleanor Clayton and published by Lund Humphries with support from the Paul Mellon Centre.

The Hepworth Wakefield

Gallery Walk,
West Yorkshire


Opening hours

Tue – Sun: 10:00 – 17:00 Closed Mondays except School and Bank Holidays.

Tel: 01924 247360


Free Admission

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