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Lee Miller was born in Ploughkeepsie, New York, in 1904. Her father was an engineer and an amateur photographer and trained her to use the camera at an early age.
Lee moved to New York in 1927 where she worked as a model. Photographed by Edward Steichen, she appeared on the front cover of Vogue. However, determined to become a photographer, she studied at the Arts Students League (1927-29) and opened her own studio in the city in 1932.
After her marriage to the the art historian, Roland Penrose, Miller moved to London where she worked as a photographer for Vogue. Miller also photographed the impact of the Blitz on the British people and this was published in the book Grim Glory.
In 1942 Miller became an official war correspondent for U.S. forces in Europe. She accompanied Allied troops during the liberation of France and photographed the scenes when the Red Army and the US Army joined up for the first time on the Elbe River. Miller was also with the troops when they liberated Buchenwald and Dachau.
At the end of the war Miller returned to England where she continued to work as a freelance journalist and photographer. Lee Miller died in Chiddingly, Sussex, in 1977.
The Fearless Photographer Lee Miller’s Life Reads Like an Adventure Novel. A New Exhibition Fills in the Glamorous Details
A fashion model discovered by the publisher Condé Nast, Lee went on to become a World War II correspondent who documented the liberation of Dachau.Self portrait (variant on Lee Miller par Lee Miller), Paris, France c1930 by Lee Miller © Lee Miller Archives England 2020.
Lee Miller earned many descriptors in her lifetime: photographer, muse, model, actress. She was also, to those who knew her, an excellent chef in the 1940s and s, Miller and her second husband, Roland Penrose, earned reputations among artists and writers as immaculate hosts at their home, Farleys House, in East Sussex, England.
Miller met Penrose, the English Surrealist artist and famed art collector, during a trip to Paris in 1937. She was married at the time to Egyptian businessman Aziz Eloui Bey and had been living in Cairo.
At 30 years old, Miller had already lived a life that read like a novel filled with dazzling coincidences and great drama. At the age of 19, she’d been discovered as a model in New York after none other than Condé Nast, the publisher of Vogue, pulled her back from stepping out in front of a car. Turning to look at at her, he was struck her great beauty.
In 1929, Miller moved to Paris. Interested in the Surrealist movement, she turned up at Man Ray’s studio and presented herself as a potential assistant. He took her on, commencing what would eventually become one of art history’s greatest love affairs.
Lee Miller, Picnic with Nusch and Paul Ėluard, Roland Penrose, Man Ray, and his girlfriend Ady Fidelin. This photograph was made soon after Penrose, a British surrealist painter had met Miller.
In 1939, a few years after Miller and Penrose met, she moved to London to pursue the relationship, and soon became a field correspondent and photojournalist in the heat of World War II.
She would go on to witness the liberation of Paris and document the liberation of the Dachau. (In Munich, her mentor, David E. Scherman, captured the famed image of Miller bathing in Hitler’s bathtub, only hours before he and Eva Braun died by suicide in Berlin.)
By the late 1940s, with the war over, Miller, Penrose, and their son, Antony, moved to Farleys House, a property Penrose purchased in 1947. Needless to say, the environment presented a change for the thrill-seeking Miller. Today a museum, the house was built on 200 acres along with three cottages, a handful of sheds, and even a malt house.
The narrative of Miller’s career often dwindles with her move to Farleys House. (She ended professional career in 1954.) But an upcoming exhibition, “The Woman Who Broke Boundaries: Photographer Lee Miller,” which opens July 3 at the Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, offers greater insight into the portraits she made of writers and artists throughout her life, which she continued to take in Farleys House. (The show also features a small selection of striking self-portraits and images made at the end of the World War II).
Here, photographs from her years in Paris and London flow naturally into the next chapter of her life, one marked by a sense of ease and familiarity.
Lee Miller, Leonora Carrington and Max Ernst. Published in Scrap Book by Roland Penrose, 1981
In the biography Lee Miller: A Life , author Carolyn Burke describes the transformative period during which Miller and Penrose became “d etermined to grow their own produce” and studied books on horticulture. Miller even learned to slaughter a pig ahead of the Christmas holiday.
The couple exhausted themselves restoring the house and the property, while Penrose simultaneously worked towards the opening of the Institute of Contemporary, which he founded on Dover Street in London.
The house became an artwork and a living museum, as Penrose “filled its rooms with French provincial antiques, arranged Henry Moore sculptures on the lawn, [and] carved images on tree trunks,” Burke writes.
Fireplace, Dining Room, Farleys House, East Sussex, England by Tony Tree. © Lee Miller Archives, England 2021. All rights reserved. leemiller.co.uk
Miller, meanwhile, welcomed an array of writers, artists, and scholars, cooking elaborate meals. Picasso dropped in on several occasions, noting his appreciation of the “Ayrshire cows, open log fires, a whiskey and soda nightcap, hot water bottles, cooked breakfasts, and tea” that Miller provided.
Picasso, whom Miller photographed during his stay, in turn painted onto the tiles surrounding her stove.
“Miller’s Picasso photographs are among the most numerous of the artist, revealing a casual intimacy between the two,” according to a text provided by the Dalí Museum. “ Miller and Penrose adored Picasso.” (Penrose even eventually wrote a biography of the Spanish painter.)
Roland Penrose and Picasso in Roland’s Studio, Farley Farm, Chiddingly, England by Lee Miller. © Lee Miller Archives, England 2021. All rights reserved. leemiller.co.uk
Published in Visiting Picasso – The Notebooks and letters of Roland Penrose by Elizabeth Cowling, 2008, page 67, Thames Hudson, London.
On another occasion, Max Ernst and Dorothea Tanning came for Easter. Other guests included John Craxton, John Golding, Joan Miró, and Man Ray, with whom Miller remained lifelong friends.
“Despite officially ending her photography career in 1954, many of Miller’s artist and writer friends visited Farleys, and she continued to photograph them. These warm friendships are reflected in the casual and lighthearted way in which Miller portrays them,” the Dalí Museum said.
If Miller’s photographs are any testament, her subjects felt right at home.
Paris, New York, Egypt
In 1929 Lee went to Paris and became Man Ray’s student, only to quickly become his partner, both in art and in life. They worked side by side as equals and together invented the technique of solarization. Lee soon became an independent surrealist photographer, opening her own studio in Paris.
In 1932 she returned to New York and established a studio there. During that time, she focused on portraits and fashion photography. One of the most significant series of portraits from that time is of the African-American cast of the Virgil Thomson – Gertrude Stein opera, ‘Four Saints in Three Acts’.
Lee Miller, Edward Matthews as St. Ignatius, Four Saints in Three Acts, c.1933, © Lee Miller Archives, www.leemiller.co.uk
In 1934 she married the Egyptian businessman Aziz Eloui Bey and moved with him to Egypt. She did not have a studio during their marriage, but she continued photographing, creating many striking images. She returned to Paris in 1937, where she met Roland Penrose whom she married in 1947.
Lee Miller, Portrait of Space, Nr Siwa, Egypt 1937, © Lee Miller Archives, www.leemiller.co.uk
Lee Miller: Model, Muse, Artist, Newshawk
Miller and Scherman made themselves comfortable. Miller, 38, filled Hitler’s bathtub, peeled off her combat boots and fatigues, and slid into the hot water. Scherman—not only a colleague but Miller’s lover—framed a scene: the photographer bathing, in the foreground her muddy boots on a white bathmat and a kitschy replica Venus de Milo, on the tub edge a portrait of the Führer. After a while the two traded places, and Miller photographed Scherman bathing. Her picture ran in the July 1945 UK Vogue. His didn’t. “The place was filled with mediocre, dull art,” Miller said later. Soldiers of the U.S. Army 45th Division’s 179th Regiment commandeered the flat as their command post. The GIs and the correspondents were listening to the radio that evening when the BBC reported Hitler’s suicide. A few days later Miller and Scherman accompanied Allied troops to Hitler’s retreat in the Bavarian Alps. Vogue carried Miller’s images of the Berghof burning,
“Salvage,” England 1943 by David E. Scherman 5005-16 (Copyright Lee Miller Archives, England 2018)
torched by retreating SS. She recorded Germany in ruins, the aftermaths of Nazi bigwigs’ suicides, retaliatory beatings of death camp guards, and impromptu executions of former collaborators. Incongruously, amid the desolation she shot fashion images, as well.
The war’s end punctuated a vibrant career Miller built in front of and behind the lens, a three-decade arc that saw the stoic blonde beauty from Poughkeepsie, New York, live and disport across continents among famous artists and writers. In the process of acquiring as paramours, friends, and admirers Man Ray, Pablo Picasso, Edward Steichen, Jean Cocteau, René Magritte, Joan Miró, Max Ernst, and their female companions, Miller earned her keep as a leading magazine fashion model, photographer, and combat correspondent, as well as being, according to son Antony Penrose, a depressive alcoholic and a terrible mother.
Elizabeth Lee Miller began life under a cloud. Born April 23, 1907, in Poughkeepsie, she was seven when a family friend raped her, infecting the child with gonorrhea. Soon after, despite knowing his daughter’s emotional torment, her father Theodore, a mechanical engineer and amateur photographer, nonetheless enlisted Lee as a darkroom assistant and model, posing the child unclothed for “art studies” using a stereoscopic camera of the sort often associated with erotica and burlesque performers. The experience hardened the girl at a young age. “Lee had the attitude that the world had failed her,” said Antony Penrose. “The only person who was really going to take care of her was herself.” Trained by her dad in photographic and darkroom technique, Lee posed nude for him, often with girlfriends, well into her 20s.
A troubled student, Lee was expelled from nearly every school in the Hudson Valley. Seeing actress Sarah Bernhardt onstage in 1917 convinced the girl she wanted to act. In 1924, 17-year-old Lee persuaded her parents to send her to Paris
to attend L’École Medgyès pour la Technique du Theatre.
Chaperoned by her French teacher, she spent seven months studying lighting, costume, and theater design.
Back home, she enrolled at Vassar College and the Art Students League, in off hours frequenting bohemian Greenwich Village. After pulling her out of the way of a wayward truck, magazine magnate Condé Nast recruited Miller to pose for Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. The March 1927 Vogue cover by illustrator Georges
Lepape showed Miller as a quintessential flapper in cloche, bob, and pearls, a metropolis shimmering behind. Miller joined the decade’s squad of It Girls, at times wearing her pale hair so androgynously short that homosexual lensman Cecil Beaton declared she looked “like a sun-kissed goat boy from the Appian Way.” Miller soon was posing for master photographers like Steichen, Nickolas Muray, and Arnold Genthe in sessions that turned into tutorials, as when Steichen shared tips on fashion photography and commercial portraiture. Miller also studied studio lighting with the masterful George Hoyningen-Huene.
Miller’s modeling career ran aground on a taboo in 1928 when menstrual pad maker Kotex licensed and published a Steichen image of her in a magazine ad, outraging bluenoses. Cut out of editorial modeling work, Miller decided to take up the camera. Carrying a letter of introduction from Steichen to Surrealist artist Man Ray, she returned to Paris in 1929. The Philadelphia-born expatriate’s Montparnasse studio was empty Miller nosed around until she found him in a neighborhood bar and introduced herself as his next student.
“I don’t have students,” Ray replied. In bed and elsewhere, however, Miller persuaded him otherwise, and when, a few weeks later, Ray headed to Biarritz, she went along, the start of a three-year liaison in which Miller was assistant, muse, and paramour to Ray, born Emmanuel Raditsky. Ray, nearly twice Miller’s age, welcomed her into his iconoclastic world, peopled by unfettered spirits like him—and, it turned out, her. “She was made for it, and it for her,” Antony Penrose said. The pair delighted in happy accidents, like their rediscovery of “solarization,” in which a paper photographic print halfway through processing is exposed to a flash of light, producing a dramatic effect. Ray’s solarized nudes, which included several of Miller, are some of his best-known works.
Surrealists were intensely social, and along with hedonistic revels and high society balls in Paris, Ray and Miller joined a fizzy set fond of vacationing in the south of France with Pablo Picasso and photographer Dora Maar, his girlfriend. Miller felt deeply for Ray but insisted on her independence. In 1930, Jean Cocteau cast Miller in his film, The Blood of a Poet, coating the lissome American with butter and transforming her into a classical statue. Ray fumed. With Cocteau also in pursuit, Miller moved to New York City and opened Lee Miller Studio, billing her enterprise as “the American Brand of the Man Ray School of Photography.” The break-up seemed to energize Ray, prompting him to paint “Observatory Time,” an oil of Lee’s glowing lips flying over a forest, and “Object to Be Destroyed,” a metronome with Lee’s ticking eye that he smashed with a hammer. Ray’s rage dissipated. He married dancer Juliet Browner. In 1937, he and Miller reconciled, remaining close for life.
Lee Miller Studio, two blocks from St. Patrick’s Cathedral, developed a brisk trade with Vogue, Chanel, Saks Fifth Avenue, I. Magnin & Co., and other clients. Brother Erik Miller handled the darkroom while his sister focused on making images and exhibiting alongside photographers like Beaton, Margaret Bourke-White, and Edward Weston. Miller worked at portraiture, developing a reputation as one of New York’s face-making aces. But she also guarded her credibility as a serious avante-garde artist. Actor-director Charlie Chaplin, with whom she once traveled in France, called her his favorite Surrealist. The May 1934 edition of Vanity Fair listed Lee Miller and Cecil Beaton among the most distinguished living photographers of the first half of the 20th century.
Depleted by two successful, demanding years, Miller shuttered the studio and moved to Cairo. In France with Chaplin, she had met a rich Cairene, Aziz Eloui Bey. She looked him up, they connected, and married. Egypt at first fascinated her but soon palled. In 1936, she took her camera into the Western Desert. Near Siwa, a remote oasis town, she made a photograph she called “Portraits of Space,” a Surrealist exercise that inspired Belgian artist René Magritte to paint Le Baiser (“The Kiss”). Homesick for Paris, Miller asked her husband’s leave to summer in France. Her first night in Paris she attended a costume ball, where she met Roland Penrose, a wealthy English painter and curator familiar with Ray’s erotic images of her. Smitten, the two careened around Europe all summer with Man Ray, his new companion, Ady Fidelin, and other artists. Miller posed for Picasso, one of six paintings he did of her she exposed more than 1,000 frames of him. With Penrose, Miller traveled to Cornwall, Greece, and Lebanon to photograph village life. Returning to Cairo and Bey, Miller maintained a liaison with the now-divorced Penrose.
Miller and Bey split in June 1939 but did not divorce. Lee took up residence with Penrose in London. When war began that September, the U.S. State Department advised citizens to head home. Miller ignored the guidance,
in July 1940 she sent two English children to live with her folks in Poughkeepsie. She joined British Vogue, covering fashion, lifestyle, and women in the military. Penrose went to work as an air raid warden and camouflage instructor, often traveling to his assignments. After Pearl Harbor, which Britons saw as a comeuppance for isolationist America, Miller began seeking out American journalists. At a party in the London offices of Life on Dean Street in Soho, Miller, 34, met wisecracking New Yorker David Scherman, 25. The charismatic photographer became a regular at the soirees Miller and Penrose threw and soon moved in with the couple. True to his aesthete’s code, Penrose let his companion know that when he was away Scherman was fair game for her.
Miller took him up on it. Scherman, who had apprenticed with Alfred Eisenstaedt and Bourke-White, mentored Miller on photojournalism. He urged her to apply for credentials to cover the war. She did, getting fatigues tailored on Savile Row. She photographed and wrote about women in uniform, society, and celebrities for Condé Nast Press. A month after D-Day, the Allied high command ruled that female correspondents could cover the war on the battlefields of France.
Lee Miller: Only woman correspondent at the Siege of St Malo, 1944 by David E. Scherman NC0051-9 (Copyright Lee Miller Archives, England 2018)
A war was just what Lee Miller needed. Everything she had learned in the past 15 years—from knowing how to move in front of a camera to where to place a camera to studying with master lensmen to traveling solo in exotic lands—came together. In July 1944 British Vogue sent Miller to Normandy to report on American nurses at the 44th Evacuation Hospital in La Cambe. She traveled with Scherman.
At La Cambe, surgical teams were performing 100 procedures every 24 hours ultimately, of 500 patients there, only 50 lived. Miller noted the nurses’ and surgeons’ quiet focus amid the soundtrack of a nearby battle. A tent hospital reminded her of Hieronymus Bosch’s hellish oeuvre. A badly burned soldier, wrapped like a mummy with oven mitt hands and tiny slits for eyes, nose, and mouth, asked Miller to take his picture so he could see how funny he looked. “It was pretty grim, and I didn’t focus well,” she recalled of the photo, published in Vogue on both sides of the Atlantic
On August 13, Miller, ignoring regulations, went to St. Malo, a port in Brittany where the U.S. Army’s 83rd Infantry Division was attacking heavily fortified German positions, occasioning some of the worst fighting of the war. “She’d come back with incredible, first-rate combat photos,” recalled Scherman. Miller was the only female photographer to stay through the siege. She unknowingly recorded the first Allied use of napalm. Squeezing
Fall of the St. Malo Citadel under Allied aerial bombardment using napalm, 1944 by Lee Miller 5918-55R6 (Copyright Lee Miller Archives, England 2018)
the shutter, she watched as “bombs plummeted into the Citadel, swallowing it up in smoke.” Army censors confiscated her negatives and prints of the firebombing. During the final assault on the Citadel, she took shelter in a German dugout, stepping on a severed hand.
Miller’s courage and lack of pretense earned her the respect of the men she was covering. The former fashion plate was living on C-rations, bunking among—and, when the mood struck, with—the boys. Scherman described her as looking like “an unmade, unwashed bed.” By the time St. Malo fell, much of the city was in ruins. On August 25, Miller and Scherman arrived in Paris as Liberation Day celebrations were in high gear. They holed up with fellow correspondents at the Hotel Scribe. “It’s very bitter to me to go to Paris now that I have a taste for gun powder,” Miller wrote to her editor. While there she tracked down Picasso and Cocteau, as well as founding Surrealist Paul Éluard and his wife Nusch, emerging from hiding to avoid the Gestapo.
Miller’s next assignment was to help revive French Vogue, which the Vichy regime had shuttered in 1940. In September, at Beaugency in the Loire Valley, she covered the surrender by 20,000 Germans to 24 Americans from the Seventh Army, months later switching modes to photograph the first Paris fashion collections since the occupation. In November, Miller traveled to recently liberated Luxembourg and Brussels, looking for and finding her favorite Belgian painters, Magritte and Paul Delvaux, safe and in good health. She spent Christmas with Penrose and Scherman in London. At Paris in March she and other correspondents got permission to cover the Allied advance into Germany. At the border she photographed women harvesting dandelions for food in a bare potato field. In Aachen, which, she said, “smelled and looked like a sepulcher,” she encountered arrogant locals, well clad and well fed, feigning ignorance of Nazism. In Cologne, Miller roomed with Bourke-White and New York Herald Tribune reporter Marguerite Higgins. Asked by her editor to report in, Miller said German resistance was crumbling so briskly as to make it difficult to note her
location, adding that she was “wearing the same trousers I wore when I left Paris six weeks ago.”
On April 25, trudging among a stream of displaced persons along the Elbe River, she met a Russian. This coincidental connection landed her at Torgau, Germany, in time to document the epic meeting of GIs and Red Army soldiers.
Scherman arrived late, but he did show up in time to frame Miller flirting with Russian officers and holding a hammer-and-sickle flag while her companions posed with the Union Jack and the Stars and Stripes.
In Nuremberg, Life photographer Dick Pollard tipped Scherman and Miller, who already had covered the liberation of Buchenwald—the background of one of her photos there included a 16-year-old Elie Wiesel—to a report about Seventh Army heading to Dachau. The photographers arrived at the camp on April 29 amid a melee. The U.S. Army 42nd and 45th Infantry Divisions and 20th Armored, along with a gaggle of reporters, were vying to get in on the last big story of the war. Miller’s were some of the most shocking photographs of the camps, made up close, with no emotional distance to soften the impact. Vogue ran the horrors captioned simply “Believe It!”
Miller was writing when word came of the German capitulation. “Shit,” she said. “That’s blown my first paragraph!” She struggled with peace, missing the camaraderie of combat as she covered post-war Europe, barely communicating with Penrose in London. In Eastern Europe she covered the lives of peasants and aristocrats unmoored by history, risking all to lean out of a high window to grab a shot of the execution by firing squad of ex-premier of Hungary László Bárdossy. In Vienna, she watched malnourished babies die in a hospital. Vogue’s renewed fashion demands gave life a schizoid quality she ping-ponged from documenting refugees to framing a
Paris liberation scene, Place de la Concorde, 1944 by Lee Miller 5925-465 (Copyright Lee Miller Archives, England 2018)
diva belting an aria from “Madame Butterfly” in the ruins of the Vienna Opera House. It took Penrose and Scherman until February 1946 to pry Miller, accreditation long since withdrawn, out of ruined Europe. In 1947, she divorced Bey and married Penrose, and at nearly 40 bore a son, Antony. Depression overtook her, as did drink. Her husband ran around. His writing and curatorial career took off, leading to a knighthood that made his wife Lady Penrose.
In 1949 the Penroses purchased Muddles Green, an 18th century farmhouse in Chiddingly, East Sussex, that became a constant garden party, attracting artists and writers. Artwork by friends remade the place into a Surrealist gallery. Miller’s final photo essay for Vogue in July 1953, “Working Guests,” featured notables performing chores. She pictured Alfred H. Barr Jr., director of New York City’s Museum of Modern Art, feeding pigs. Artist Max Ernst weeded flower beds. Pablo Picasso posed feeding cows with Antony while New Yorker cartoonist Saul Steinberg battled with a garden hose.
In 1960 Miller again transformed herself, this time into a proto-foodie, as cooking became her therapy and creative outlet. She studied cuisine in Paris and London, befriending such gustatory luminaries as James Beard. She amassed a library of 2,000 cookbooks and developed quirky recipes of her own with names to match: Blue Spaghetti, Muddles Green Green Chicken, Pink Cauliflower Breasts, Upside Down Onion Cake. She often served meals on china liberated from the Berghof and initialed “AH.” American Vogue described her cooking as “food painting.”
Under the spotlight
The show’s premiere was heavily criticized and the production was under a lot of pressure from reviewers! With Abby Lee Miller leading the way as the dance instructor, it was meant to be her job to help and encourage the girls she was teaching.
Under the spotlight
However, viewers saw Miller degrading the girls, and she was accused of bullying them on a few occasions. The moms were not much better in the eyes of the critics either, as they came across as pushy, and wanting their daughters to exceed no matter the cost!
Don’t Let History Forget This Incredible Female World War II Photographer
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By David Scherman/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images.
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After trudging through the liberated concentration camps at Buchenwald and Dachau, photographing piles of human bones, S.S. officers in prisoner uniforms who attempted escape and failed, and glass-eyed, barely living prisoners standing around in groups, waiting to see what happens next—Lee Miller took off her muddy boots, making sure to wipe their horrific mud on the clean, fluffy bathmat, and posed in Hitler’s bathtub.
In some takes, her head is turned, in others her eyes wander—one is clouded with blurring, and in the final, famous image taken by Life photographer David E. Scherman (and Miller’s companion through the war), she’s looking up and over, eyebrows raised, as if at someone who interrupted her bath—a washcloth held to her bare shoulder.
We wouldn’t have these other drafts—four or five total when Miller typically only took one or two per shot—if her son’s wife, Suzanna, hadn’t discovered them in his family’s attic. Hell, we might not even know who Lee Miller was if Antony Penrose hadn’t made it his life’s work to revive her incredible and inspiring story. That bathtub scene? Just the beginning.
Lee Miller, SS Guard in Canal, 1945. Miller’s notes on the back of some of her photographs were very telling of “the level of coldness and anger that was in her heart in that moment,” said Penrose.
© Lee Miller Archives, England.
After modeling in fashion ads for Vogue and other magazines in the 20s, Miller moved behind the camera, taking notes from Man Ray. History has her recorded as being his “muse,” which doesn’t seem to be the right label for Miller (it connotes some passivity, which wasn’t how she lived). She watched and studied him, and then moved on to make a name for herself. Miller was always in the driver’s seat but her relationships with men were, well, prolific, and complicated. At one point, Miller was living as a “kept woman,” married to a wealthy man in Egypt (her photos from this time are fascinating, as if you’re looking at a movie set), but it didn’t last long. Her second and final marriage, to sculptor Roland Penrose, was spiced up with threesomes with other surrealist artists. It wasn’t until after her death when her son, Antony Penrose, was researching her life in order to write her biography, did he find out from one of her brothers that she had been raped as a 7-year-old child.
“I think in that moment, Lee had the attitude that the world had failed her,” Penrose told us, “and the only person who was really going to take care of her was herself.” She lived with the secret until she died in 1977 of cancer even her husband had no idea.
Lee Miller, Irmgard Seefried, Opera singer singing an aria from ‘Madame Butterfly,’ 1945.
© Lee Miller Archives, England.
Her time in Egypt came to a close, and Miller returned to Britain among her artist friends, pursuing a career at British Vogue. Soon, W.W.II began. “It would’ve been incredibly easy for her to disappear to America and sit the war out. But she didn’t,” said Penrose about why Miller went to war. “I think she wanted to stay and try and do something. And nobody was going to give her a gun or an airplane, or something useful like that—so she used her camera.” She photographed scenes of desperation and destruction: young dead, beaten soldiers citizens in fire masks, preparing for the worst ruined landmarks concentration-camp prostitutes gathered in army trucks. She sent her film off to Vogue, which published some of Miller’s most powerful and horrific work from the Holocaust.
Lee Miller, Fire Masks, 1941. During the London Blitz, Roland Penrose was an air raid warden, “so he would’ve been given [a fire mask] as really inadequate protection for when they went in and tried to put out the incendiary bombs,” said Antony Penrose.
© Lee Miller Archives, England.
After the war, Miller suffered terrible PTSD, which doctors at the time hadn’t yet wrapped their heads around. Penrose and his father watched her alcoholism take hold: “You put up, you shut up, and you drank whiskey.” What brought her out of the fog was cooking, specifically, “surrealist gourmet cooking”—meaning green chicken, huge Elizabethan feasts of entire roasted pigs, cakes with absurd decorations, things that might make you nervous about having a friend over for dinner. And in the past 600 words, I’ve only barely scraped the surface of Lee Miller.
Picasso and Miller at the Rue des Grands Augustins in Paris, 1944.
© Lee Miller Archives, England.
A new exhibit, “The Indestructible Lee Miller,” at the NSU Art Museum in Fort Lauderdale focuses on Miller’s lifetime of work, including her fashion photographs made during the London Blitz, her war photography alongside photographs of friends, such as Picasso, Jean Dubuffet and Georges Limbour. Penrose remembers visiting Picasso’s studio as a child, where Picasso let children explore and touch everything, completely unrestrained (Picasso had also painted Miller six times). “One time, on the beach, I made a monster out of driftwood, and it was a very fine monster,” said Penrose. “I showed it to Picasso, and he was really excited about it. Then he asked if he could have it, and he took it, and he sat it among his own work in his studio. I was slightly sad to be parted from my monster but I realized that he’d gone to live in a very special place.” There are photos in Miller’s archive of little Antony on Picasso’s lap, playing with priceless ceramics, poking his finger at Picasso’s caged parrot. “I realize,” Penrose said, “playing in that studio, if I’d had just stepped back and placed my foot through a canvas, it would be the equivalent of millions of dollars’ worth of damage.”
The exhibit, of around 100 photographs, is a small drop from the tens of thousands of negatives Penrose discovered in the attic, some of which he’s still identifying and uncovering. When you’re browsing the near 4,000 photos in her Web site archive, they appear organized randomly, pages and pages of thumbnails. It can be a startling mix: images of Miller, topless on a beach, family photos of her son hanging out with Picasso at his studio like it’s grandpa’s house, glamorous fashion photography, and then boom, a literal stack of dead bodies piled like firewood, awaiting burial at Buchenwald. You can immediately get a sense of all the moments in her life, stewing and brewing inside of Miller, images that both she never wanted to forget alongside the ones she couldn’t as hard as she tried.
Roanoke: Solving the Mystery of the Lost Colony
I&aposm fascinated with people (or groups of people) who disappear because, well, that&aposs pretty neat. The Lost Colony of Roanoke is one of the most interesting because after 400 years, the mystery still has not been solved. Lee Miller put up a good front, she had a semi-interesting theory. But. All of that was covered up by her overwrought writing, her convenient use of misdirection (ooh, look over there!), the sloppiness of "seamlessly" weaving her own writing with quotes Jeeeeebus.
I'm fascinated with people (or groups of people) who disappear because, well, that's pretty neat. The Lost Colony of Roanoke is one of the most interesting because after 400 years, the mystery still has not been solved. Lee Miller put up a good front, she had a semi-interesting theory. But. All of that was covered up by her overwrought writing, her convenient use of misdirection (ooh, look over there!), the sloppiness of "seamlessly" weaving her own writing with quotes from primary sources, and the fact that she seems incapable of writing complete sentences. All of this was certainly meant to add drama to a story that no one really knows, but it also made me feel that she was stretching history to fit her own personal theory. For an anthropologist such as Miller, this seems pretty inappropriate.
The other parts of history that she used (ad nauseum) are fascinating all on their own - lengthy studies of Native Americana (is that a real thing? Whatever, I'll just make it up as I go along. ), Queen Elizabeth, Walter Raleigh, etc. etc. But there was so much of those things that the waters of the mystery just got more and more muddied.
With all the backtracking, jumping forward, spinning around, and generous use of exclamation points and question marks, I realized I wasn't reading a book of history at all, even though that's the section where I found the book. This could pass as historical fiction, maybe, or some new section of a bookstore needs to be created where books of complete bullshit need to be shelved.
I just. whatever. There's some merit here, but her attempt at making it more shiny than it was (or should be) makes it feel speculative at best, filled with supposition and asking more questions than providing answers.
There are probably better books out there about this topic, and I hope to find them. I think this book is fine for certain readers, but I'm not sure what kind of readers those would be. Going into it, don't expect it to be an easy read. As someone who isn't turned off by difficult books, this says a lot - it was made more complicated than was necessary, and the only reason for that is that Miller felt she needed the additional padding to validate her theory. . more
Of the four major secondary sources that I have read that narrate Walter Raleigh’s attempts to establish an English settlement on the coast of North America in the 1580s, Lee Miller’s Roanoke: Solving the Mystery of the Lost Colony is probably the most informative and definitely the most entertaining.
Miller’s research is extensive. (Even her footnotes give useful information) Not content just to tell the conventional story of Raleigh’s attempts, she provides valuable context.
We learn about the Of the four major secondary sources that I have read that narrate Walter Raleigh’s attempts to establish an English settlement on the coast of North America in the 1580s, Lee Miller’s Roanoke: Solving the Mystery of the Lost Colony is probably the most informative and definitely the most entertaining.
Miller’s research is extensive. (Even her footnotes give useful information) Not content just to tell the conventional story of Raleigh’s attempts, she provides valuable context.
We learn about the misery of life in England and, more particularly, London. Miller writes that fish markets and butchers shops at London’s waterfront abound. The stench is overwhelming. Offal is channeled down to waiting dung boats on the Thames. Streets are twisted and narrow, with constant congestion of carts and coaches. Around the base of St. Paul’s Cathedral booksellers’ stalls and printers’ shops swarm. Skulking around them are knaves, pickpockets, and thieves. Rudeness “is in keeping with an overall atmosphere of self-indulgence. A shirking of personal responsibility. … Anger is allowed free rein street brawls are common. Couples easily separate when tired of marriage. … the swelling army of pursy and corpulent citizens indicates an absence of self-denial” (Miller 35). Bear-baiting is a favorite public entertainment. Crowds of idlers sit in stands to watch specially trained dogs, one by one, attack a bear who is tethered to a post and whose teeth have been broken short.
Additionally, Miller explains the history of Queen Elizabeth’s difficulties with Spain beginning with King Phillip II’s ascension to the throne in 1556. She writes about the intrigues against Elizabeth’s life that involve Mary Stuart, the one-time queen of Scotland. We read about Mary’s duplicity, arrest, trial, and execution.
Miller provides a character sketch of Walter Raleigh, relates his beginnings and his rise to power, portrays his enemies, and narrates his downfall.
She offers reasons to explain why ordinary men and several of their wives and children leave England in 1587 to settle in the New World.
Miller’s book is excellent for its range of historical information. That she attempts to answer two lingering questions about the Roanoke settlements makes her book even better. Why was Walter Raleigh’s 1587 attempt – led by the artist John White -- to establish a permanent settlement doomed to fail? What really happened to the “lost” settlers that White could not locate upon his return to Roanoke in 1590?
Lee Miller is the only historian to theorize that the 1587 attempt was deliberately sabotaged. She reviews each of Queen Elizabeth’s four primary councilors and presents compelling evidence that the saboteur was her secretary of state Francis Walsingham.
The conventional wisdom of most historians about the “disappearance” of a major portion of White’s settlers is two-fold. One, they relocated either on the south shore of Chesapeake Bay or 50 miles inland from Roanoke Island somewhere up the Chowan River and, two, they were slaughtered years later by the Powhatan Indian nation. Miller speculates that they settled somewhere along the Chowan River but were almost immediately destroyed by a vicious interior tribe that coastal Algonquian tribes called Mandoag. She lays out arguments as to why Jamestown officials declared that John White’s “lost colony” had been killed by the Powhatans and why the few rumored survivors of White’s colony were spread across North Carolina’s interior.
A third reason why I valued this book is Miller’s skillful use of descriptive language. In certain places she writes like a novelist. Here are two examples.
John White and Thomas Hariot approach Paquype Lake – “They follow a wooded trail, damp and spongy underfoot, around knotty cypress knees jutting out of stagnant water the color of weak tea, tainted with tannic acid. Scarlet-headed parakeets tumble wildly into the air, frightened… The path skirts trees the girth of five men, primordial giants draped in skeins of green vine. Tendrils curl, cascading downward, twisting over the ground below. Then, without warning, incongruous amid the tangle, a ring of blue water” (Miller 89).
Evening scene at Aquascogoc – “Offshore, Indian dugouts ride a crimson tide as the sun tumbles into the sound. Shimmering fire across the water. Fishermen, in grand silhouette, lay their nets, rhythmically casting and hauling in. Butterflies unfolding glistening wings of nettle fiber. A graceful dance. Eventually the boats, lit up by torches, will twinkle toward land. Drawn by the fires of Aquascogoc. The domed houses gleam with muted light, illuminating woven wall patterns like stained glass, spilling warm shapes across the tamped ground outside. Each design different. Stars and geometrics kaleidoscopic forms, birds and fish” (Miller 90).
Roanoke: Solving the Mystery of the Lost Colony is a special book.
Growing up within an hour of Jamestown, I&aposve always had a bit of a fascination with the early colonies. Imagine my surprise as a youngster to find out my beloved Jamestown wasn&apost the first! The teachers seemed to gloss over this, because obviously anything wonderful in the world happened within the confines of the great Commonwealth of Virginia. And Roanoke. well that was just poor planning.
I picked up the book because it sounded like an interesting investigation into the Lost Colonists, who se Growing up within an hour of Jamestown, I've always had a bit of a fascination with the early colonies. Imagine my surprise as a youngster to find out my beloved Jamestown wasn't the first! The teachers seemed to gloss over this, because obviously anything wonderful in the world happened within the confines of the great Commonwealth of Virginia. And Roanoke. well that was just poor planning.
I picked up the book because it sounded like an interesting investigation into the Lost Colonists, who seemed to just vanish, admittedly after they hadn't looked for them in three years. I mean, if after three years you came to my house and I was gone, you wouldn't call me the Lost Jen.
The book puts forward an interesting theory that the colonists were set up to discredit Raleigh. This is supported by. uh. not a heck of a lot. Miller stretches the evidence to fit her needs, sometimes repeating as fact mere conjecture. (Example: If Leicester was as adroit a poisoner as Miller says--giving a list of victims--he would have offed Burghley about eight times over, and he would have poisoned his wife rather than having her fall down the stairs. The fact is that diseases that came on suddenly were often attributed to poison and/or witchcraft. To repeat such fallacies in a book is simply poor history.)
Miller also writes this book as a poorly executed episode of Law and Order. She moves backwards and forwards through time in a way that just would make the head spin. She reports on things as mere lengthening devices, puts forward "suspects" (no, really, she actually calls them that)and goes into great detail about their lives only to go "nope, wasn't him." It all gets really tiresome.
The biggest failing of this book is her almost compulsive use of quotations. In the introduction, she states that she is putting all quotations in italic to make it easier to read. What it does in reality is a poor job of disguising that Miller has only really written about half the entire book. And by only citing the quote in endnotes, the reader is left to really wonder about bias, motivation, and source of every lengthy italic section. Without providing the source, any quote is no better than scrawled graffiti. And I can not overstate that Miller quotes a lot. Sometime a page is over 75% italic, which no doubt made writing this book much easier. It make reading it, and taking its assertions seriously much harder.
In the end, although the book is enjoyable at time, and makes an intriguing case for Walsingham being a mastermind conspirator--which he no doubt was, the book fails to really educate the reader fully about Roanoke. If the author had stuck to analyzing her sources, and letting the story tell itself rather than cloaking it in Holmesian tweed, she would have a really good book on her hands. As it is. it's not worth the italics.
Art History News
In conjunction with Women’s History Month, The Dalí Museum has announced new dates for an exhibition featuring the work of a groundbreaking female photographer. Lee Miller (1907-1977) was the trusted confidante of many influential artists and an eyewitness to some of the most extraordinary moments of the 20th century. Sweeping in scope and intimate in focus, The Woman Who Broke Boundaries: Photographer Lee Miller surveys her fascinating personal life and remarkably incisive portraiture and photojournalism. The exhibition is organized by the Dalí Museum and will feature more than 130 images from Miller’s prolific body of work. Originally scheduled to open in early 2020 and postponed due to the pandemic, The Woman Who Broke Boundaries will now be on view exclusively in St. Petersburg beginning this July.
The exhibition concentrates on Miller’s portraits of important writers and artists, the majority associated with the Surrealist movement in Paris, and with whom she had sustained personal relationships. Also featured is a small selection of striking self-portraits, images captured during the liberation of Paris and Germany at the end of the Second World War, and photos representative of technical advancements in the medium she chose to express herself and capture the times.
The Woman Who Broke Boundaries: Photographer Lee Miller is curated by William Jeffett, chief curator of exhibitions at The Dalí Museum. The photographs are on loan from the Lee Miller Archives in Sussex, England.
“Equally unconventional and ambitious, Lee Miller continually reinvented herself, much like the artists she lived among and photographed,” said Dr. Hank Hine, executive director of The Dalí. “With a wry Surrealist quality, her work intimately captured a range of people and historical moments however, the passion, intensity and restlessness of the woman behind the camera is where the most extraordinary stories can be told.”
Born in New York, Miller started her career as a Vogue model in the 1920s. After moving to Paris in 1929, she began a three-year personal and professional partnership with American Surrealist photographer Man Ray. In addition to modeling for many of Ray’s most significant works, Miller also served as an active assistant and collaborator, rediscovering the “Sabatier effect” that she and Ray adopted to create solarized prints with a brief secondary exposure resulting in an aura around the subject.
Toward the end of her time in Paris, Miller photographed Dalí and his wife Gala.
An Olympic gold-medal–winning gymnast, Shannon Miller was born on March 10, 1977, in Rolla, Missouri, one of three children of Claudia and Ron Miller. The family moved to Edmond, Oklahoma, when Shannon was six months old. Two months earlier her doctor had discovered that her legs were turning inward, and he placed her in leg braces for six months.
After the children received a trampoline for Christmas, their parents enrolled them in classes at a local gymnastics center. Shannon enjoyed the activity so much that her parents could use it as leverage if she got in trouble. In 1986 Miller spent two weeks at a training camp in the Soviet Union, and Steve Nunno, later her trainer, noticed her. After returning to the United States, she joined Nunno's team, the Dynamos, and began training in earnest. By the end of the season she held the Class II state championship.
Shannon Miller was a selected for the U.S. Olympic teams in 1992 and 1996. In 1992 she won silver medals in balance beam and all-around and bronze medals in floor exercises, uneven parallel bars, and team all-around. In 1996 at the Atlanta Olympic Games the women's team won Shannon her first gold medal, and she also won the gold in balance beam. At that time she had earned more Olympic medals (seven) and World Championship medals (nine) than any other American gymnast. She overcame all obstacles, including injuries and fierce competition. Earning fifty-eight international and forty-nine national competition medals, at that time she was the only American to have won two consecutive World Championship all-around titles.
Guided by Nunno and Peggy Liddick, she established a permanent place in gymnastics history while maintaining a full personal life. In 1999 she married Oklahoma native Chris Phillips, a medical student. They later divorced. Miller earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Houston and a law degree from Boston College.
Miller's honors include four nominations for the Sullivan Award (honoring the nation's top amateur athlete). She was presented the Master of Sport Award (one of the highest honors a gymnast can receive) in 1993 at the USA Gymnastics Congress, and she was one of four finalists for the Zaharias Award in 1992, 1993, and 1994. In 1994 she won the Dial Award (America's most coveted award for high school seniors), was named Athlete of the Year at the USA Gymnastics Congress, was awarded the first Henry P. Iba Citizen Athlete Award, and was named a Team Xerox Olympian.
Claudia Ann Miller and Gayle White, Shannon Miller: My Child, My Hero (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1999).
"Shannon Miller," Vertical File, Archives, Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame, Oklahoma City.
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Abby Lee Miller Dropped by Lifetime for Long History of Racist Comments
Let’s be frank: the movie and TV industry has not been nearly diligent enough in cutting ties with creators who say and do racist things. But with Black Lives Matter protests taking over the nation, companies are scrambling to prove their dedication to a new, anti-racist future, where racist comments are met with consequences. To that end, Dance Moms star Abby Lee Miller has been dropped from the network, effective immediately. Her planned spinoff, Abby’s Virtual Dance-Off, has been canceled, and she will no longer be involved in any upcoming seasons of Dance Moms.
Deadline reported on Lifetime severing ties with Miller after a week of illuminating confessions from past Dance Moms contestants and their experiences with the dance instructor. Adriana Smith spoke out on Instagram, recalling the one comment of Miller’s that always stuck with her most: “I know you grew up in the HOOD with only a box of 8 crayons, but I grew up in the Country Club with a box of 64 – don’t be stupid.” Miller later told Smith’s 7-year-old daughter that she was there because they needed a “sprinkle of color.”
Former Dance Moms star Camille Bridges came forward too, sharing how Miller had singled out her Black daughter and other ways she conveyed her clear prejudice.
“[Abby] tried to spin Camryn as being the poor one and there on scholarship,” Bridges told E! News. “I shut that down immediately. She loves appropriating our culture and never appreciating it. She did not give black choreographers on the show acknowledgment of their work. She continuously put Camryn in afros.”