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For other uses, see Lee Miller (disambiguation).
Lee Miller
Lee Miller.jpg
Cover of the biography Lives of Lee Miller by her son Antony Penrose
Born Elizabeth Miller
(1907-04-23)April 23, 1907
Poughkeepsie, New York
Died July 21, 1977(1977-07-21) (aged 70)
Chiddingly, East Sussex
Nationality American
Education Man Ray
Known for Photojournalism
Movement Surrealism
Website Lee Miller Archives

Elizabeth "Lee" Miller, Lady Penrose (April 23, 1907 – July 21, 1977), was an American photographer. Born in Poughkeepsie, New York, in 1907, she was a successful fashion model in New York City in the 1920s before going to Paris, where she became an established fashion and fine art photographer. During the Second World War, she became an acclaimed war correspondent for Vogue, covering events such as the London Blitz, the liberation of Paris, and the concentration camps at Buchenwald and Dachau.[1]

Early life[edit]

Miller was born on April 23, 1907, in Poughkeepsie, New York. Her parents were Theodore and Florence Miller (née MacDonald). Her father was of German descent, and her mother of Canadian, Scottish and Irish descent. She had a younger brother named Erik, and an older brother named John. Theodore always favored Lee, and he often used her as a model for his amateur photography.[2] When she was eight years old, she was raped while staying with a family friend in Brooklyn and infected with gonorrhea.[3]



Lee's father introduced Lee and her brothers to photography at an early age. She was his model – with many stereoscopic photographs taken of a teenage Lee in the nude – and he also showed her technical aspects of the art.[4] At age 19, she was stopped from walking in front of a car on a Manhattan street by the publisher of Vogue, Condé Nast,[2] thus launching her modeling career when she appeared on the cover of the edition of March 15, 1927, in an illustration by George Lepape.

For the next two years, she was one of the most sought-after models in New York, photographed by leading fashion photographers including Edward Steichen, Arnold Genthe, Nickolas Muray and George Hoyningen-Huene.[5] A photograph of Miller by Steichen was used to advertise Kotex menstrual pads, causing a scandal[6] and effectively ending her career as a fashion model.


External video
Lee Miller (5595220206).jpg Farley Farm House
Man Ray Portraits: Lee Miller's house on YouTube, tour with Antony Penrose (4:33), TheArtFundUK

In 1929, Miller traveled to Paris with the intention of apprenticing herself to the surrealist artist and photographer Man Ray. Although, at first, he insisted that he did not take students, Miller soon became his model and co-collaborator, as well as his lover and muse.[3] While she was in Paris, she began her own photographic studio, often taking over Man Ray's fashion assignments to enable him to concentrate on his painting. In fact, many of the photographs taken during this period and credited to Man Ray were actually taken by Miller. Together with Man Ray, she rediscovered the photographic technique of solarisation. She was an active participant in the surrealist movement, with her witty and humorous images. Amongst her circle of friends were Pablo Picasso, Paul Éluard, and Jean Cocteau (she appeared as a statue that comes to life in Cocteau's The Blood of a Poet (1930)).[7]

After leaving Man Ray and Paris in 1932, she returned to New York and established a portrait and commercial photography studio with her brother Erik as her darkroom assistant. During this year she was included in the Modern European Photography exhibition at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York. In 1933, Levy gave Miller the only solo exhibition of her life.[8] Among her portrait clients were the surrealist artist Joseph Cornell, actresses Lilian Harvey and Gertrude Lawrence, and the African-American cast of the Virgil ThomsonGertrude Stein opera Four Saints in Three Acts (1934).

In 1934, she abandoned her studio to marry Egyptian businessman Aziz Eloui Bey, who had come to New York to buy equipment for the Egyptian Railways. Although she did not work as a professional photographer during this period, the photographs she took while living in Egypt with Eloui, including Portrait of Space, are regarded as some of her most striking surrealist images. By 1937, Miller had grown bored with her life in Cairo and she returned to Paris, where she met the British surrealist painter and curator Roland Penrose, whom she later would marry.

Her photographs were not included in another exhibition until 1955, when her work was displayed in the renowned "Family of Man" exhibition curated by Edward Steichen, the director of the Museum of Modern Art's (MOMA) Department of Photography in New York City.[9]

World War II[edit]

At the outbreak of World War II, Miller was living in Hampstead in London with Roland Penrose when the bombing of the city began. Ignoring pleas from friends and family to return to the US, Miller embarked on a new career in photojournalism as the official war photographer for Vogue, documenting the Blitz. Miller was accredited into the U.S. Army as a war correspondent for Condé Nast Publications from December 1942. She teamed up with the American photographer David E. Scherman, a LIFE correspondent on many assignments. Miller traveled to France less than a month after D-Day and recorded the first use of napalm at the siege of St. Malo, as well as the liberation of Paris, the battle for Alsace, and the horror of the Nazi concentration camps at Buchenwald and Dachau. A photograph by Scherman of Miller in the bathtub of Adolf Hitler's apartment in Munich is one of the most iconic images from the Miller–Scherman partnership.[10]

During this time, Miller photographed dying children in a Vienna Hospital, peasant life in post-war Hungary, and finally, the execution of Prime Minister László Bárdossy. After the war, she continued to work for Vogue for a further two years, covering fashion and celebrities.[2]


After returning to Britain from central Europe, Miller started to suffer from severe episodes of clinical depression and what later became known as post-traumatic stress syndrome. She began to drink heavily, and became uncertain about her future. In 1946, she traveled with Roland Penrose to the United States, where she visited Man Ray in California. After she discovered she was pregnant by Penrose with her only son, Antony, she divorced Bey and, on May 3, 1947, married Penrose. Their son, Antony Penrose, was born in September 1947.

In 1949, the couple bought Farley Farm House in East Sussex. During the 1950s and 1960s, Farley Farm became a sort of artistic Mecca for visiting artists such as Picasso, Man Ray, Henry Moore, Eileen Agar, Jean Dubuffet, Dorothea Tanning, and Max Ernst. While Miller continued to do the occasional photo shoot for Vogue, she soon discarded the darkroom for the kitchen, becoming a successful gourmet cook. She also photographed for biographies Roland wrote about Picasso and Antoni Tàpies. However, images from the war, especially the concentration camps, continued to haunt her and she started on what Antony describes as a "downward spiral". Her depression may have been accelerated by her husband's long affair with the trapeze artist Diane Deriaz.[4]

Miller was investigated by the British security service MI5 during the 1940s and 50s, on suspicion of being a Soviet spy.[11][12]


Miller died from cancer at Farley Farm House in Chiddingly, East Sussex, in 1977, aged 70. She was cremated, and her ashes were spread through her herb garden at Farley Farm House.[citation needed]


Her son Antony Penrose owns the house and offers tours of the works of Miller and Roland Penrose. The house is home to the private collections of Miller and Penrose, their own work and some of their favourite pieces of art. In the dining room, the fireplace was decorated in vivid colours by Roland Penrose.[citation needed]

Throughout her life, Miller did very little to promote her own photographic work.[2] That Miller's work is known today is mainly due to the efforts of her son, who has been studying, conserving, and promoting his mother's work since the early 1980s. Her pictures are accessible at the Lee Miller Archive.[13]

In 1985, Penrose published the first biography of Miller, entitled The Lives of Lee Miller. Since then, a number of books, mostly accompanying exhibitions of Miller's photographs, have been written by art historians and writers such as Jane Livingstone, Richard Calvocoressi, and Mark Haworth-Booth. Interviews with Penrose form the core of the 1995 biographical documentary Lee Miller: Through the Mirror, made with David Scherman and writer-director Sylvain Roumette.[14][15] Penrose and Scherman collaborated in the book Lee Miller's War: Photographer and Correspondent With the Allies in Europe 1944–45, 1992, ISBN 978-0-8212-1870-9.

A 1946 radio interview with Miller can be heard on the audiobook Surrealism Reviewed, published in 2002. In 2005, Miller's life story was turned into a musical, Six Pictures Of Lee Miller, with music and lyrics by British composer Jason Carr. It was premiered at the Chichester Festival Theatre, West Sussex. Also in 2005, Carolyn Burke's substantial biography, Lee Miller, A Life, was published in the U.S. by Alfred A. Knopf and in the U.K. by Bloomsbury. In 2007, Traces of Lee Miller: Echoes from St. Malo, an interactive CD and DVD about Miller's war photography in St. Malo, was released with the support of Hand Productions and the University of Sussex.

In 2015, an exhibition of her photographs at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Lee Miller and Picasso, focussed "on the relationship between Lee Miller, Roland Penrose and Pablo Picasso."[16] In the same year, a work of historical fiction, The Woman in the Photograph, by Dana Gynther, was published.[17] It builds its story around Miller's affair with Ray in Paris circa 1930.


  1. ^ Rachel Cooke (September 19, 2015). "Women at war:Lee Miller exhibition includes unseen images of conflict". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 September 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c d Ali Smith (September 8, 2007). "The look of the moment". The Guardian. Retrieved September 22, 2015. 
  3. ^ a b Charles Darwent (January 27, 2013). "Man crush: When Man Ray met Lee Miller". The Independent. Retrieved May 9, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Prose, Francine (2002). The Lives of the Muses. Perennial. ISBN 0-06-019672-6. 
  5. ^ "Lee Miller: Portraits". National Portrait Gallery. Retrieved June 16, 2014. 
  6. ^ "Photographer Lee Miller and Kotex menstrual pads". 
  7. ^ MacWeeney, Antony; Penrose, Anthony (2001). The Home of the Surrealists: Lee Miller, Roland Penrose, and Their Circle at Farley Farm. p. 31. ISBN 9780711217263. 
  8. ^ Conekin, Becky (2006). "Lee Miller: Model, Photographer and War Correspondent in Vogue" 
  9. ^ Livingston, Jane (1989). "Lee Miller: Photographer". Thames & Hudson 
  10. ^ Dark secret of the woman in Hitler's bathtub: How war photographer Lee Miller was raped as a child by a relative and forced to pose naked by her father, by David Leafe. Published March 12, 2013, retrieved July 8, 2013
  11. ^ Gardham, Duncan (March 3, 2009). "MI5 investigated Vogue photographer Lee Miller on suspicion of spying for Russians, files show". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved May 9, 2014. 
  12. ^ Sanchia Berg (3 March 2009). "The Lee Miller File". Today BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 22 September 2015. 
  13. ^ "Lee Miller Archives". Retrieved May 9, 2014. 
  14. ^ "Lee Miller, Through the Mirror (1995)". Dailymotion. Retrieved July 13, 2015. 
  15. ^ Lee Miller: Through the Mirror at the Internet Movie Database
  16. ^ "Lee Miller and Picasso". National Galleries Scotland. Retrieved May 30, 2015. 
  17. ^ Gynther, Dana (2015). The Woman in the Photograph. New York: Gallery Books. ISBN 1476731950. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lee_Miller — Please support Wikipedia.
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94718 news items

New York Times

New York Times
Sat, 21 Nov 2015 02:52:30 -0800

London — In 1927, a chance encounter on a New York sidewalk with the media mogul Condé Nast made the gamine beauty Lee Miller a magazine cover girl and modeling sensation. Later, as the lover and muse of the artist Man Ray, her face and body were ...

Falkirk Herald

Falkirk Herald
Sat, 28 Nov 2015 09:26:15 -0800

An early goal from Lee Miller did little to settle the nerves and a second-half equaliser spurred Falkirk into action at a rain-lashed Falkirk Stadium. Miller completed his hat-trick after a header from captain Will Vaulks ensured the Bairns would be ...

Design & Trend

Design & Trend
Sun, 22 Nov 2015 04:45:00 -0800

(Photo : Getty Images/Brendon Thorn) Abby Lee Miller is rumored to be threatening the cast members of "Dance Moms" season 6 to not speak negatively of her. "Dance Moms" star Abby Lee Miller recently went under fire for continuously bullying her ALDC ...

International Business Times

International Business Times
Fri, 20 Nov 2015 13:12:22 -0800

Abby Lee Miller's legal issues are a hot topic among “Dance Moms” fans, and it appears the cast and crew of her hit Lifetime series are also buzzing about it. But according to reports, the Abby Lee Dance Company (ALDC) coach is none too thrilled about ...

Master Herald

Master Herald
Wed, 25 Nov 2015 02:52:30 -0800

Filming for Season 6 of the American dance competition reality show “Dance Moms” is now underway and reports have it that dance leader Abby Lee Miller is back to her old bullying ways not only on the girls and their mothers but also on the staff of the ...


Mon, 02 Nov 2015 11:50:11 -0800

Two weeks after she was indicted on 20 counts of fraud with a possible five years behind bars and $5 million in fines, Abby Lee Miller today had her first day in court. In a short arraignment in the federal courthouse in downtown Pittsburgh, the ...

Falkirk Herald

Falkirk Herald
Tue, 24 Nov 2015 05:57:16 -0800

Lee Miller will remain with Falkirk after signing a contract extension. The striker made a homecoming to the Bairns in the summer and penned a deal until January 2016. However he has agreed to extend his stay until at least the end of the season by ...

The Australian Financial Review

The Australian Financial Review
Fri, 13 Nov 2015 05:07:30 -0800

Lee Miller's beauty made her a model, but she was soon behind the camera, influenced by the surrealists, like Man Ray, as with this image, 'Floating Head (Mary Taylor)', 1933. Part of the show at the NSU Art Museum, Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Until ...

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