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Muse, Model, and Artist—The Iconic Influence of Lee Miller

Surrealist Muse: Lee Miller, Roland Penrose, and Man Ray
At the Getty February 25-June 15, 2003

Press Preview: February 25, 9 to 11 a.m.

January 24, 2003

Los Angeles—The many faces of Lee Miller—model, muse, and artist—are explored in Surrealist Muse: Lee Miller, Roland Penrose, and Man Ray at the Getty from February 25–June 15, 2003.  The exhibition traces Miller’s colorful life and legacy from 1925 to 1945 through more than 100 photographs, and in selected paintings and mixed-media works. These objects document the impact of her talent and powerful personality on artists with whom she came into contact, and explore the influences of these collaborations on her creative life.  The works on display are from the Getty’s permanent collection, the Lee Miller Archive, and the Roland Penrose Collection. They range from early pictures of Miller’s modeling career in New York, to Surrealist images showing her influence on Man Ray, Picasso, and Roland Penrose, to her astonishing World War II photographs documenting the demise of Hitler and the Third Reich. 

Deborah Gribbon, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum, commented,  "It is difficult to think of another woman who has had such a far-reaching impact on a group of artists and their work.  We see Miller’s image and influence as interpreted by others, and then see the source of that power in her own creative vision.  Miller’s legacy is all the more compelling because she made her presence felt at a time when women were still struggling for equal rights.  She helped pave the way, leaving her indelible mark on a world soon to be altered by war."

As muse, Miller was a rare inspiration, equally comfortable and forceful in front of and behind the camera and canvas.  At the age of 19, she became a model in New York where her image, captured and composed by photographers Arnold Genthe, Edward Steichen, and George Hoyningen-Huene, made her a fashion icon.  At 22, Miller began working as a studio apprentice to Man Ray in Paris.  The relationship soon evolved with Miller becoming artistic collaborator and muse.  Some of Man Ray’s most prominent images were created between 1929 and 1932 with Miller’s assistance.  Through Man Ray, Miller was introduced to the writers and artists of the Surrealist movement.  Miller’s membership in this vibrant community sparked a cross-pollination of influences that infused Surrealist traditions into her work.  Her impact was also felt by other artists in the group, including Picasso, who painted his vision of Miller in five portraits, one of which is on display.

Miller’s influence is perhaps most keenly felt in the works of her two closest collaborators—Man Ray and Roland Penrose.  Both interpreted and reinterpreted Miller’s image to reflect their relationships.  Man Ray, enraged after a quarrel with his muse, depicted Miller with her neck slashed in his 1930–32 painting Le Logis de l’Artiste (The Artist’s House), using a previous photograph of Miller with her head thrown back and her neck extended as a model. Penrose envisions Miller, whom he married, as Night and Day in his painting portraying Miller in a costume half adorned with clouds floating in a blue sky, and half shaded in the gentle darkness that comes with night. 

As an artist, Miller’s work moves from portraits taken in her New York studio, to documentary images recording her travels, to the stark faces of death and destruction captured on the fields of war as a correspondent for the U.S. Armed Forces.  Across the maturing quality of her work, we see the different threads of her prior experiences united in her vision.  In her photograph documenting the suicide of a German official and his family at the end of the war, Miller moves her lens close to the subjects, capturing the bodies as if they were in a state between dream and waking, life and death—at once beautiful, horrible, and surreal.

Related Events and Publications
All events are free and are held in the Harold M. Williams Auditorium, unless otherwise noted. Seating reservations are required. For reservations and information, please call 310-440-7300 or visit

Lee Miller, Muse and Surrealist Artist
Antony Penrose, director of the Lee Miller Archive, presents a profile of his mother, Lee Miller, told through the art works of those who were inspired by her, and through the medium of her own photographs and words. Sunday, March 2,
4 p.m.

Frames of Reference: Photographers on Photography
An Artist Series lecture related to the exhibition with photographer Eileen Cowin. Sunday, March 23, 4 p.m.

Lee Miller: The Angel and the Fiend
The life and work of Lee Miller, fashion model, Surrealist muse, photographer, and gourmet cook is brought to life in this dramatized reading for five voices. The words of Lee Miller, Man Ray, Roland Penrose, David Scherman, and Antony Penrose are set to a constant stream of images drawn from Lee Miller’s career in photography. Written by her son and biographer Antony Penrose and produced by the Chance Theater Company of Orange County.

Reservations available beginning March 25. Friday and Saturday, April 4 and 5, 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, April 5 and 6, 3 p.m. (matinee)

Step into the Surrealist world for a day of celebration and family fun. Create your own work of art inspired by Man Ray and Lee Miller, explore the dream-like world of 1930s Surrealism through music, dance, and interactive workshops. Produced by Community Arts Resources. Saturday, March 29, 10 a.m.–6 p.m.,
Museum Courtyard

Talks are held at 6 and 7:30 p.m. in the Museum galleries. Sign up at the Museum Information Desk beginning at 4:30 p.m.

Meg Cranston, sculptor, performance artist, and professor at Otis College of Art and Design, discusses the exhibition. Friday, April 11

Publications are available in the Bookstore, by calling 310-440-7059, or online at

The Road is Wider than Long
By Roland Penrose
A facsimile edition of the handmade book Roland Penrose made for Lee Miller.
60 pages (Cloth: $19.95)

In Focus: Man Ray
Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum
144 pages, 50 duotone illustrations. (Paper: $17.50)                    

The Surrealist and the Photographer: Roland Penrose and Lee Miller
Essays by Antony Penrose, Keith Hartley, Roland Penrose, Rene Magritte and Paul Nouge, Jennifer Ramkalawon, Michael Sweeney, Ann Simpson, Carolyn Burke, and Carole Callow. Publisher: National Galleries of Scotland
176 pages (Paper: $31.50)

Note to Editors: Images available upon request.

To RSVP for the press preview from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Tuesday, February 25,
please call 310-440-6471.
For more information, the public can call 310-440-7300 or visit

The Getty would like to acknowledge the cooperation of the Lee Miller Archive in this exhibition. For additional information please visit and

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About the Getty:

The J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic institution devoted to the visual arts that features the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Foundation, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and the Getty Research Institute. The J. Paul Getty Trust and Getty programs serve a varied audience from two locations: the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Malibu.

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The J. Paul Getty Museum collects in seven distinct areas, including Greek and Roman antiquities, European paintings, drawings, manuscripts, sculpture, and decorative arts, and European and American photographs. The Museum's mission is to make the collection meaningful and attractive to a broad audience by presenting and interpreting the works of art through educational programs, special exhibitions, publications, conservation, and research.