February 2009

The Art Of Lee Miller

Yale University Press

  • P.O. Box 209040, 302 Temple Street
  • New Haven , CT

(203) 432-0960

Lee Miller (1907-1977) was what could be called a modern renaissance woman. Through various stages of her life, she was a model, journalist, gourmand, and photographer, with a career in this medium that transcended the boundaries of art, fashion, and news reportage. As suggested by its title, this book, abc The Art of Lee Miller xyz by Mark Haworth-Booth, provides perspective on Miller through her development as an artist. The efforts of Haworth-Booths research are evident throughout, and the author skillfully makes the erudite accessible and engaging. The book is also full of beautiful photographs, presenting Millers experiences both in front of and behind the camera, functioning as a visual primer of her life.

The book is loosely arranged chronologically, with geography being of more primary focus. Millers life is tracked from New York to Paris to Egypt to London, and the expanding depth of her experiences is reflected in her work. Relationships with Man Ray and Jean Cocteau, her experimentations in the darkroom, and the details of her involvement with both British and American Vogue are just a few of the topics discussed. Lee Millers work with Vogue is particularly fascinating, as we see her role within the magazine evolve from model to fashion photographer to war correspondent. From 1940 to mid-1945, every issue of British Vogue included at least one photograph by Lee Miller; she provided haunting images of war-ravaged Europe that are imbued with Surrealist sensibility and composed technical precision.

Lee Miller is a perfect illustration of an artist as the intersection of personal experience with the zeitgeist of the era. Through charismatic force of will and technical skill, Miller carved out her own important place in art history. A discussion of Millers impact as a fearless, avant-garde woman is somewhat out of scope here, but Haworth-Booth does touch on her relevance as a liberated female figure during at a few points. I highly recommend this book - in a life this rich and varied, there is something of interest for nearly everybody. For those with an interest in Lee Miller, Surrealism, or photography, this book is a must.

Reviewer: Anna Wilcoxon, FIDM Library Staff Member