Special exhibit celebrates the trailblazing woman whose camerawork captured celebrities, surrealists and the zeitgeist of the last century
An eyewitness to some of the most extraordinary moments of the 20th century, Lee Miller (1907-1977) was the trusted confidante of many influential artists. 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. Organized by The Dalí Museum and on view exclusively in St. Petersburg beginning this summer, the exhibition will feature more than 130 images by the groundbreaking female photographer. 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.
In 1932 Miller returned to the U.S, where she set up her own portrait studio and contributed to such publications as Condé Nast’s Vogue. Later, upon her return to Europe, she met British artist, historian and poet, Roland Penrose, and together they visited Pablo Picasso in 1937 and established a lifelong family friendship. While not a member of the Surrealist movement, she brought to her work a technical innovation and poetic vision akin to Surrealism, and she was invited to exhibit with the group in London in 1940.
During WWII, Miller traveled with the U.S. Army as an officially accredited war correspondent, rare for a woman at the time. Miller bore witness to the horrors of war and the death camps of Nazi Germany. After the war, she married Penrose and continued her friendship with key figures of the avant-garde, many of whom she photographed for various publications and for biographies written by Penrose. Portraiture was the only form of photography Miller continued to practice until the end of her life in 1977.
The Woman Who Broke Boundaries: Photographer Lee Miller is organized by The Dalí Museum, with works on loan from the Lee Miller Archives in Sussex, England. www.leemiller.co.uk.
About The Dalí Museum
The Dalí Museum, located in the heart of picturesque downtown St. Petersburg, Florida, is home to an unparalleled collection of over 2,400 Salvador Dalí works, including nearly 300 oil paintings, watercolors and drawings, as well as more than 2,100 prints, photographs, posters, textiles, sculptures and objets d’art. The Museum’s nonprofit mission, to care for and share its collection locally and internationally, is grounded by a commitment to education and sustained by a culture of philanthropy. The Dalí is recognized internationally by the Michelin Guide with a three-star rating; has been deemed “one of the top buildings to see in your lifetime” by AOL Travel News; and named one of the 10 most interesting museums in the world by Architectural Digest. The building itself is a work of art, with a geodesic glass bubble nicknamed The Enigma, which features 1,062 triangular glass panels, a fitting tribute to Salvador Dalí’s legacy of innovation and transformation. Explore The Dalí anytime with the free Dalí Museum App, available on Google Play and in the App Store. The Dalí Museum is located at One Dalí Boulevard, St. Petersburg, Florida 33701. For more information visit TheDali.org.