Lee Miller’s Surrealist Eye

She was the most sought after fashion model of her day. She was a muse and model for the Paris surrealists of the 1930s. And, she was herself an outstanding photographer who with a sense of humour and a keen eye for the surreal created some of the most powerful images of the twentieth century. Øregaard Museum’s main spring exhibition of 2012 is dedicated to the world famous American photographer Lee Miller – one of the most significant photographers of the twentieth century.


Lee Miller (1907-1977) started her career in front of the camera as a super model in 1920s New York. After a few years of this glamorous life style, she stepped behind the camera, turned her gaze out towards the world and moved to Paris in 1929. Through her close relationship with surrealist photographer Man Ray, she established herself within the innermost circles of the avant-garde, alongside artists such as Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau, Max Ernst, Joan Miró and others.


Within the surrealist circle of artists, Lee Miller quickly came to be seen as a famous muse. Yet simultaneously she also developed her very own surrealist style of imagery, based on her unique ability to capture the fantastic in the otherwise mundane. Lee Miller’s work showed great diversity: next to her own art, she established herself as one of her day’s most celebrated portraitists and fashion photographers, first in Paris but subsequently also in New York and London where she worked for fashion magazine Vogue, amongst others.


A Woman in the Line of Fire
During the Second World War, Lee Miller truly saw the surreal aspects of reality when she – contrary to US regulations barring women from the front lines – served as war correspondent to Vogue. In several series of powerful photographs, she documented the insane and often surreal character of war. As one of the very first photographers, she arrived at Buchenwald concentration camp and, subsequently, published her shocking images under the title ‘Believe it’.


Lee Miller’s photographs travelled the world and her efforts as war correspondent helped change the role of photojournalism: from being mere companion pieces to larger stretches of text, photographs were now seen to be able to tell independent stories of their own. Lee Miller’s photographs offered more than a simple recounting of fact and thus she set a new standard for photojournalism.


The exhibition was been created in partnership with the Lee Miller Archive, UK, and the Mjellby Museum of Art, Sweden.