Fashion model and photographer, a Surrealist muse and a war photographer witness of the liberation of Dachau and Buchenwald concentration camps, Lee Miller is one of the most remarkable icons of the 20th century.
She was discovered by Condé Nast in 1927, Miller’s look, her blonde hair, bold blue eyes, and fashion sense, was exactly what Vogue’s then editor in chief, Edna Woolman Chase, was looking for to fill the void of the ever-emerging idea of the “Modern Girl.”
Miller first appeared on the cover of Vogue in 1927 in a blue hat and pearls, drawn by renowned French illustrator Georges Lepape.
In 1929 she traveled to Paris intending to learn photography from surrealist photographer Man Ray. Although he first tried to demur, insisting that he did not take students, Miller soon became his photography assistant, as well as his lover and muse.
Max-Ernst, Lee-Miller and Man-Ray.1930.
Paul Eluard, Lee Miller, Nusch, Roland Penrose, Man Ray and Ady Fidelin own Le déjeuner sur l’herbe, 1937.
Le déjeuner sur l’herbe, by Édouard Manet created in 1862 and 1863.
Lee Miller Wearing Yraide Sailcloth Overalls, 1930.
Man Ray portraits.
Lee Miller moved to London in 1939 to live with Roland Penrose. She trained her Surrealist eye on the chaos of Blitzed London for her first book, ‘Grim Glory’ (1940). She started working for British ‘Vogue’ in 1940 and became the magazine’s most prolific contributor.
With Pablo Picasso at his studio. Liberation of Paris, 1944. Picasso remarked, “This is the first Allied soldier I have seen, and it’s you!” Picasso’s incredulity at seeing Miller in fatigues was likely spurred by his memories of her as the radiant, carefree model who sat for a portrait seven years earlier.
The poison suicided Burgermeister’s Family, Leipzig, Germany, 1945.
Dead SS Guard in the Canal, Dachau, Germany, 1945.
The night after Miller visited Dachau, on April 30, 1945 — Hitler had committed suicide in Berlin just earlier that day – Miller and Scherman entered Munich with the American 45th Division that was liberating the city. They happened upon a dilapidated and normal-looking apartment building on Prinzenregentplatz 27, and realized, upon entering, that it was Hitler’s Munich apartment.
Miller carefully constructed a stage set with a portrait of Hitler perched on the tub and her dirty boots at the foot of the bath. She raises her right arm in a gesture that mirrors the sculpture to her left.
When the photo came out, it was considered an extremely poor judgement. To Formidable Magazine it is a sublime performance. Miller, a central character of the art avangard art Nazis persecuted as “deviant”, takes her photo naked on Hitler’s own bathtub… as we said, simply sublime.