Lee Miller: A Romanian Rhapsody | Photo exhibition at RCC

10th July 2014

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On Thursday, 10th of July Romanian Cultural Centre had the pleasure to present the photo exhibition Lee Miller: A Romanian Rhapsody by one of the most remarkable female icons of the 20th century.

The evening also included a talk with Antony Penrose, Bill McAlister and Adrian Silvan Ionescu.

Curated by Adrian Silvan-Ionescu, the exhibition explores hidden corners of rural Romania before and right after WW2, at a time of significant social and political change. A Surrealist photographer, Lee Miller (1907-1977) is often best remembered for her fashion work and as a WW2 combat photographer freelancing for Vogue magazine. In the summer of 1938 together with the artist Roland Penrose she travelled through Romania by road in Miller's large American Packard car. Their journey began in Athens, and led to Bucharest where they met the noted musician and anthropologist Hari Brauner and his partner Lena Constante, a puppeteer and stage designer. Their route led to Târgu Jiu, Brebu, Tismana ,Sibiu, Brasov, Bran, Baia Mare, and back to Bucharest. Driven by her surrealist passion, Lee Miller was fascinated by the wonderful rituals of Romania capturing through her lenses customs such as Caluarii, Paparuda or Caloian. The exhibition includes rarely seen and un-shown photographs of 1930s Romania, a record of the last moments of an innocent world. In 1946 Lee Miller went back, determined to find out if her friends had survived the war. Her images subtly reflect the turbulence of the post-war years and capture the nation poised for major political and social change. Her writing is veiled as she records evidence of the destruction of peasant life during the Nazi occupation. Beautifully composed, Lee Miller's images reflect the scars of irreparable damage, a world of hardship and unremitting toil, but also of great beauty and uniquely strong cultural values to be found today woven into the fabric of Romania.


In 1927 Lee Miller was accidentally discovered in New Yorkby Cond Nast, the owner of Vogue magazine. Her portrait immediately appeared on the front cover of Vogue and Edward Steichen's photographs gave her super-model status. She learned photography in Paris from Man Ray, the American Surrealist artist and leader of Avant Garde photography. She was his lover, assistant and favourite model and became a photographer in her own right. It was surrealism and its underlying principles of peace, freedom and justice that defined the rest of her life. She established her own highly successful studio in New York in 1932 which she closed two years to later when she impetuously married Aziz Eloui Bey and went to live in Cairo. Her dreamlike images from this period are some of her finest Surrealist work. In 1937 she met the British surrealist artist Roland Penrose in Paris, and travelled with him to the south of France. Here Picasso painted her portrait six times and from that moment onward Penrose, who she later married, featured her in many of his works. Exhibition organised in partnership with The Lee Miller Archives, a small privately run archive which is dedicated to conserving and publishing the work of Lee Miller. It is located in Farley Farm House, a farm house near Chiddingly, East Sussex which has been converted into a museum, celebrating the lives and work of its former Surrealist occupants, the photographer Lee Miller and artist Roland Penrose. This exhibition is curated by Dr Adrian-Silvan Ionescu, Director of the Institute of Art History in Bucharest, with the collaboration of John Sorensen, executive director of The Enescu Project, New York. Special thanks to Ioana Popescu, of the Museum of the Romanian Peasant, and Paula Popoiu of Muzeul Na?ional Al Satului Dimitri Gusti for their assistance in identifying the locations and events shown in Lee Miller's images.


Dr. Adrian Silvan Ionescu
Director of the Institute of Art History G. Oprescu, part of the Romanian Academy, he is also professor at the National University of Art in Bucharest, specialised in XIX century Romanian and European Art, XIX century history of photography.

Antony Penrose Son of the American photographer Lee Miller and Roland Penrose, surrealist artist and biographer of Picasso, he is the Director of the Lee Miller Archive and The Penrose Collection, which is housed in Farley FarmHouse.

Bill McAlister Born in Yorkshire. Romanian Jewish Grandmother from Tulcea,Romania. Sometime Director of Battersea Arts Centre and long-time Director of the ICA Institute of Contemporary Arts. All the time fisherman, beekeeper and fungi forager.

Photo Credits: James Rice