War reporter, fashion photographer, model… Lee Miller, much more than a cliché

paintingLong after her beauty and role as the muse of Man Ray, American Lee Miller (1907-1977) lived thousands of lives. Today, she is best known for her work as a photographer. He is currently in the spotlight at Rencontres d’Arles this summer.

In Sussex, southern England, white sheep seem to have been laid in fields as if sticking swear words on green English hills. Farley Farm advertises a sign in front of a large red brick house, surrounded by wood-clad buildings. Except that, on this farm, they grow less carving carrots – about thirty have taken root all over the garden. Some for a long time, like this massive fallen giant, Signed by sculptor Michael Werner, he’s been lying in several pieces on the lawn since 1965. Others, more contemporary, just pass by: sculptor Kristen CoalPost’s golden dog watches the site all summer, perched on a mast as an Egyptian deity protects.

Hat on his head, checkered shirt and friendly smile, Anthony Penrose, 74, grew up here in the 1950s, among cows and artwork of all kinds. “During the week, my nanny, Patsy, took care of me, He says. On weekends, people who said they were my parents arrived with strangers speaking unknown languages. Some are super cute, some are weird… For me, it was totally normal! »

It must be said that his parents were no ordinary. Her mother, photographer Lee Miller, was known for her elaborate feasts and wild parties, which she prepared for her artist friends with her painter husband Roland Penrose. As good surrealists, the two were eager for encounters, experiences, and free love. And impervious to what will be said. Under the eyes of the inhabitants of the amazing little village of Chiddingly, guests sometimes dressed in skimpy clothes or not at all, played badminton and croquet, sunbathed in the yard, laughed and argued, dressed with rat heads or made a whole bunch of strange things.

Lee Miller, photographed by her husband Roland Penrose, at Farley Farm, their country home in Sussex, England, in 1953.

In the UK edition of the magazine Vogue magazine, In 1953, Lee Miller made his visitors the subject of a report called “Guests at Work.” We see art historian Alfred Barr, senior director of New York’s MoMA, feeding pigs, while designer Saul Steinberg used the pages of New Yorker, Struggling with a garden hose. “We try to maintain a touch of the madness, by organizing a surreal picnic every summer, Ami Bouhassan, daughter of Anthony Penrose attests. And we support contemporary artists, as did my grandparents, not to make Farley Farm a constant place – they’d hate it! »

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