Lee Miller, Renaissance Woman
Alexa Montecillo (The Freeman) - March 8, 2018 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — In a world dominated by men, it is rare to hear of a woman achiever. And if a woman ever stands out, it is almost certain that she has achieved more than the men. This is true in every life endeavor.

In the world of arts, if the familiar term “Renaissance Man” had a female counterpart, it would surely be applicable to Lee Miller – a big name in the story of Modern Art and Photography in the early to middle 20th century. Art historians describe Miller as “a multi-talented but troubled individual.”But “troubled” are what most – if not all – great artists are.

Elizabeth “Lee” Miller first entered the world of photography as a model to photographers in New York.In 1929 she moved to Paris and became the assistant – and lover – of celebrated photographer Man Ray. The works that they produced together were the most significant of both of their careers.

Ray and Miller re-discovered the “solarisation” technique, their joint contribution to the art of photography, although the technique had earlier been known to scientists as the Sabattier effect when applied to negatives.Solarisation involved a partial or complete inversion of tones within a photographic print; dark becomes light and vice versa.

In Paris, Millergot into the artistic circle involving most of the major figures in Modern art including, Pablo Picasso, Paul Eluard and Jean Cocteau and frequently appeared in their work. She became an accomplished surrealist artist and photographer in her own right. Then she returned to New York to run her own studio. There, she got busy with commissions for portraits, packing shots and editorials for Vogue magazine.

At the outbreak of World War II, Miller was the war correspondent for Vogue magazine,and became one of the first ever female war correspondents accredited to the US army and travelled with the US troops throughout Europe during 1944 and 1945. She covered crucial aspects of the war such as the London Blitz, the liberation of Paris and the discovery of the concentration camps at Buchenwald and Dachau. Perhaps most famously, she took a self-portrait sitting in Adolf Hitler’s bathtub in his Munich apartment, a statement of the end of the war.


After the war, she settled in East Sussexand through the 1950’s and 1960’s, her home, Farley Farm House, became a hub for artists visiting Britain. In her later years, apart from taking the occasional assignment, Miller gave up photography to become… a gourmet cook.

Lee Miller exemplifies the concept of the modern woman – independent, confident, focused and accomplished. Her works confidently compare with those of her male counterparts. Hers is a life story that embraces possibilities, open andunrestricted.

The history of art – 20th century art in particular – is strewn with examples of female artists who have made major contributions to developing their particular lines of specialization, often in the face of prejudice, low perceptions of their credibility,and a lack of opportunity. These women should be a reminder a person should be measured in terms of personal capacity and achievement… and not by gender.

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