Lee Miller's photographs of Picasso to be showcased in major Scottish National Portrait Gallery exhibition

By Culture24 Reporter | 23 April 2015

Friendship between Pablo Picasso and Lee Miller explored in photos from vast archive co-organised by Miller's son

A black and white photo of a man in a suit and a woman in a uniform looking at each other
Lee Miller, Pablo Picasso and Lee Miller after the Liberation of Paris (1944). Rue des Grands Augustins, Paris, France© Lee Miller Archives, England
The remarkable photograph showing the moment Pablo Picasso and Lee Miller, his long-term model, were reunited following the 1944 Liberation of Paris – their first meeting since the Second World War started – will star in a major Edinburgh exhibition on the friendship between the pair this summer, including intimate shots from the late 1930s beaches of France and pictures from the Picassos' visit to England in 1950.

Miller had become one of only six accredited female war correspondents. Arriving in the French capital with American troops, she found herself outside Picasso’s studio, where she had sat for the artist hundreds of times after their initial meeting in 1937.

Picasso is said to have remarked: “This is marvellous – this is the first Allied soldier I have seen, and it’s you!” The photo, which was published in Vogue in October 1944, shows both parties smiling and Miller in uniform, titled “Lee Miller, Vogue photographer, arrived, went to see old friends”.

A black and white photo of a man crouching by a painting inside a studio
Lee Miller, Picasso with La Coiffure (1956). Villa la Californie, Cannes, France© Lee Miller Archives, England
“My parents’ friendship with Picasso was a central part of their lives,” says Antony Penrose, the Director of the Lee Miller Archives and the son of Miller and Roland Penrose, her husband with whom she welcomed Picasso to their Sussex farm six years later.

“Beginning from the camaraderie and ideals shared on the beaches of the Côte d’Azur, it developed rapidly into a love and creative collaboration.

“Roland Penrose became Picasso’s biographer, the curator of key exhibitions and regarded as ‘The Picasso Man’. Lee Miller lovingly chronicled the men and their achievements.

A black and white photo of a man looking sideways dressed smartly outside a villa
Lee Miller, Picasso (1937). Hotel Vaste Horizon, Mougins, France© Lee Miller Archives, England
“It is fortunate she loved them both as much as she did. A lesser devotion would not have allowed her to tolerate Penrose’s obsessive passion for Picasso.”

Running for more than three months, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition from the archives features a photo taken by David E Scherman, a fellow war photographer who entered Hitler’s flat in Munich with Miller on April 30 1945 – the day the Nazi leader committed suicide.

The shot shows Miller washing in the bathtub of the flat at the end of a day which had seen the first forces enter the death camps of Buchenwald and Dachau. Miller was traumatised by the experience.

A black and white photo of a man holding a baby boy into the air while they are in the sea
Lee Miller, Picasso and his son Claude (1949). Golfe Juan, France© Lee Miller Archives, England
“My family’s connection to the National Galleries of Scotland goes back many decades,” says Penrose.

“This exhibition gives me a particularly deep satisfaction. Its inclusion of brilliantly chosen objects from The Roland Penrose Archive brings us much of the intimate back story behind Miller’s photographs in a way never shown before, and takes both Picasso and Miller’s work to a new level of understanding.”

A series of telegrams, sent by Miller to Penrose from Germany in May 1945, and the couple’s wedding photo will also be among the exhibition highlights.

  • Lee Miller and Picasso is at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery from May 23 – September 6 2015. Admission £9/£7. Visit the exhibition online and use the hashtag #NGSMillerPicasso.

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