Palazzo Franchetti dedicates an exhibition to Lee Miller and his connection to Man Ray

Palazzo Franchetti in Venice presents from November 5, 2022 the exhibition "Lee Miller - Man Ray. Fashion, Love, War." On display are about 140 photographs by Miller and Ray, as well as some art objects and video documents.

From November 5, 2022 to April 10, 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.

About 140 photographs by Lee Miller and Man Ray, some art objects and video documents will be on display, thanks to the collaboration of Lee Miller Archives and the Marconi Foundation. Visitors will thus be able to admire the shots of this great photographer and understand the contribution she made not only as Man Ray’s muse, but more importantly as a professional. Indeed, it is often forgotten that it was she who discovered, by chance, and inspired him the photographic technique of solarization that Man Ray adopted as his artistic signature.

Model, photographer, muse, first woman war reporter to document the horrors of the 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 reciprocated her with love and friends, but also with pain and posthumous or at least belated recognition. Now an exhibition will do justice to this woman as beautiful as she was brilliant and talented by removing her from the shadow of Man Ray who always accompanied her to reveal their deep as complicated relationship: Man Ray, first her teacher, then love and finally great friend. The aim of the exhibition is also to offer due recognition to Lee Miller, a pioneer of surrealism in photography, placing her on an equal footing with Man Ray, whose work tended to overshadow her both in her lifetime and in the years to come. The exhibition, which opens with a 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 itinerary.

The audience is greeted by a section devoted to Lee Miller as a model and muse in the 1920s, when she casually meets the famous Condé Nast publisher who makes her a model for Vogue, and Georges Lepape, the leading fashion illustrator of those years, who portrays her face for a 1927 cover of Vogue (USA), launching her as a style icon. Miller decided to leave New York to return to Paris and thus follow her passion for photography.

During her Parisian years she worked with George Hoyningen-Huené, a famous photographer for Vogue, who photographed her in overalls and tennis shoes, and in the famous shot The Divers, one of the most iconic fashion shots in the 20th century chosen by Anna Wintour as one of her five favorites in Vogue’s long history, in which Lee Miller poses with her back to a dock with Horst P. Horst. Lee avidly draws on every cue and provocation from the artistic and cultural background that preceded his 1929 meeting with Man Ray, in that Parisian avant-garde of the 1920s 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 that blossomed in Paris in 1929 and ended in 1932, with a focus on their lives, careers, and relationships during that period. The audience will be able to note the inspiration they both exerted on each other, including the photographic technique of solarization that Man Ray made his own. Also on display will be the portraits taken by Man Ray of his friends and great protagonists of that artistic season-Max Ernst, Pablo Picasso, Giorgio de Chirico, Jean Cocteau, Salvador Dali-and the Surrealist shots of Lee Miller in which he tries to investigate and reveal his soul, his torments, using the camera as a tool, almost as if he wanted to decompose his icy body by portraying the nape of his neck, his neck, his shoulders. Also exhibited are some unforgettable shots of her artist friends Dora Maar and Meret Oppenheim

Also from 1930 is the photograph The Neck. In the same year Jean Cocteau involved Lee Miller in his surrealist Le sang d’un poète, an avant-garde film in which Lee, sprinkled with plaster, plays a classically inspired statue.

The exhibition also addresses, through a wide selection of photos, both portraits and commercial advertisements, the period following her relationship with Ray, when Miller in 1932 returned to New York to open her own photography studio, at the time the first founded and run by a woman photographer. During that period, Man Ray, blinded by grief over his separation from Lee, replaces the eye on the arm of his celebrated metronome Perpetual Motif with that of his beloved in 1933. The section emphasizes Lee Miller’s surrealist creations up to the shots of the famous “surrealist vacation” in the summer of 1937 between Cornwall and the south of France along with Max Ernst, E.L.T.Mesens, Man Ray and Leonora Carrington as well as Pablo Picasso, Dora Maar and Elieen Agar and with what would become her second husband, British surrealist artist Roland Penrose.

One section is then devoted toEgypt. In 1934, Lee Miller married Egyptian businessman Aziz Eloui Bey and followed him to his homeland where she was fascinated by the desert landscape, villages, and relics of past civilizations as evidenced by the many shots, of great charm and atmosphere such as the very famous Portrait of Space with its tent or mosquito net torn toward infinity that inspired René Magritte to paint Le baiser in 1938. A marriage that was destined to be short-lived, in part due to her acquaintance in Paris with Roland Penrose and her subsequent move to London, the city where she worked as a photographer for Vogue, and it was on the pages of the famous glossy magazine that she gave life to shots devoted to fashion and society columns with surrealist lights and cuts that drew on her earlier life and her connection with Man Ray.

Finally the drama of World War II, Lee Miller is a war correspondent and photojournalist for Vogue. During the war she finds herself documenting 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 a U.S. 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, there is also a large selection of her work with a surrealist slant, and photos of important artists and old friends, such as Picasso and Jean Cocteau in Paris, whom she met shortly after the end of the conflict.

Throughout the exhibition the common thread is devoted to the relationship between Lee Miller and Man Ray and the evolution from love into friendship, which lasted for nearly fifty years, parallel to their mutual marriages to Aziz Eloui, Roland Penrose and Juliet Browner. Ray would be particularly close to Miller during the period when he suffered from chronic depression, partly due to a kind of post-traumatic disorder resulting from the horrors he had witnessed during World War II.

The catalog, published by Skira, is edited by Victoria Noel-Johnson with texts by Ami Bouhassane, Co-Director of the Lee Miller Archives (and Lee Miller’s grandson) and Antony Penrose (Lee Miller’s only son) promoting awareness of Lee Miller. It is due to Suzanna, late wife of Anthony Penrose’s accidental discovery in the attic of more than 60 thousand photographs, negatives, documents, journals, correspondence and memorabilia, the rediscovery of Lee Miller’s many lives.

Due out in spring 2023 in theaters is the biopic Lee, with the screenplay based on Antony Penrose’s biography The Lives of Lee Miller dedicated to Lee Miller on the occasion of the 45th anniversary of his passing. In the cast, playing 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 French Vogue.

For info:

Hours: Daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Closed Tuesdays.

Image: George Hoyningen-Huené, Lee Miller, detail (1932). Credit George Hoyningen-Huené Estate Archives.

Palazzo Franchetti dedicates an exhibition to Lee Miller and his connection to Man Ray
Palazzo Franchetti dedicates an exhibition to Lee Miller and his connection to Man Ray

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