Lee Miller and Man Ray, a tale of love and photography – Venice

Man Ray, Natasha, 1931 (1980). Private collection I Courtesy Marconi Foundation, Milan © Man Ray 2015 Trust / ADAGP – SIAE – 2022

Venice – “I’d rather take a picture than be a picture,” Lee Miller once said. Yet still today many know her for having been the model and lover of Man Ray. While at the cinema she is preparing the release of the biopic Lee, with Kate Winslet in the title role, a major exhibition in Venice pays homage to the surrealist photographer. From 5 November to 10 April, 140 photographs, art objects and rare video documents will illustrate his numerous talents at Palazzo Franchetti, finally restoring the reality of his bond with Man Ray, first his mentor, then his companion and finally a great friend.

Man Ray, Self Portrait, 1931 (1982). Private collection I Courtesy Marconi Foundation, Milan © Man Ray 2015 Trust / ADAGP-SIAE 2022

We owe to Suzanna, late wife of Anthony Penrose (Lee’s second husband), the rediscovery of the thousand lives of this extraordinary artist. Galeotte were some forgotten boxes in the attic with a world inside: 60,000 photographs, negatives, documents, magazines, letters and objects. Muse, photographer, icon of the twentieth century, the first woman war reporter to document the horrors of the concentration camps liberated by American troops, Lee Miller went through life with incredible passion and determination. The path curated by Victoria Noel-Johnson retraces the stages of her adventure between secret shots and images that have written history, with loans from the Lee Miller Archives and the Marconi Foundation. “The exhibition allows us to relive the intensity of the Roaring Twenties, the Paris crossroads of fashion, literature and art that opened up to Surrealism. And then Miller, witness to the horror of the Second World War… Aesthetics and history, beauty and tragedy ”, summarizes Vittorio Verdone, director of Corporate Communication and Media Relation at Unipol, who supported the project.

George Hoyningen-Huene, Lee Miller and Agneta Fisher, Vogue, 1932 © George Hoyningen-Huene Estate Archives

In Venice we will discover Lee as a model and style icon on the pages of Vogue, where she landed in the 1920s at the invitation of the famous publisher Condé Nast. Or in Paris in the avant-garde environments, between portraits of Pablo Picasso, Max Ernst, Jean Cocteau, and her friends photographers Dora Maar and Meret Oppenheim. We will retrace their loves and marriages, from the Egyptian businessman Aziz Eloui Bey to the British surrealist Roland Penrose, and we will recognize the reflection of these encounters in art. From the fascination of Egypt, for example, the unforgettable was born Portrait of Spacewhich with its curtain torn over infinity inspired the Kiss by Magritte.

Lee Miller, Portrait of Space, Al Bulwayeb, near Siwa, Egypt, 1937 © Lee Miller Archives England 2022. All rights reserved. www.leemiller.co.uk

The heart of the exhibition is the relationship with Man Ray, told through intense photographs taken by both. How The Neck, which portrays Lee’s long and elegant neck: after a furious quarrel, the lover would have represented him cut by a razor and adorned with drops of red ink. In 1933, however, a Man Ray blinded by the pain of separation replaced the eye of his famous metronome Perpetual Motif with that of Lee Miller. Deep, sensual and overwhelming for both, the relationship between the two holds surprises that go beyond the narration of a love. Few people know, for example, that it was Lee who discovered the photographic technique of solarization, which went down in history as a revolutionary innovation by Man Ray.

Man Ray, The Tears (Les deux yeux, le nez et les larmes), 1930 (1988). Private collection I Courtesy Marconi Foundation, Milan © Man Ray 2015 Trust / ADAGP – SIAE – 2022

When love ends, Miller returns to New York and opens a successful photography studio, the only one in the city founded and run by a woman. But her life will soon take her elsewhere: to Egypt, London and the theaters of the Second World War. As a war correspondent and photojournalist for Vogue, she Lee she will document the bombings of London, the liberation of Paris, the concentration camps of Buchenwald and Dachau, and in 1944 she will be credited as a correspondent in the US Army. The face to face of her with the brutalities of the twentieth century will not leave her indifferent. Lee Miller will suffer from depression and post-traumatic disorders, Man Ray will be close to her forever.

Lee Miller, Fire Masks, 21 Downshire Hill, London, England, 1941 (3840-8) © Lee Miller Archives England 2022. All rights reserved. www.leemiller.co.uk

Curated by Victoria Noel-Johnson, Lee Miller Man Ray. Fashion Love War it will be open to the public at Palazzo Franchetti from 5 November 2022 to 10 April 2023. The catalog published by Skira contains texts by Anthony Penrose and Ami Bouhassane, the artist’s son and grandson respectively.

“Lee Miller Man Ray. Fashion, Love, War”, Palazzo Franchetti, Venice

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