Friday, August 12, 2011



Had the great privilege and pleasure yesterday of meeting Antony Penrose (thanks to Daisy) who gave us a guided tour round Farley Farm House in Chiddingly, East Sussex.

This was the home of the remarkable photographer Lee Miller and her husband Roland Penrose, the leading British Surrealist, co-founder with Herbert Read of the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, and biographer of Picasso.

During their time, the house became a meeting place for some of the greatest art figures of the age – including Man Ray, Max Ernst, Joan Miro and Pablo Picasso.


Antony Penrose holding a picture of himself as a small boy with Pablo Picasso. He has written a children’s book entitled The Boy Who Bit Picasso

The beautiful half-timbered house has now become a museum but it still has a cozy lived-in feel and the spirits of those times still lingers in the air.

Each room and corridor is stuffed with treasures. Beautiful surrealistic paintings, displays of Lee’s photographs, rich libraries of books and hundreds of wonderful works of ethnographic art, objet trouvĂ© and personal belongings.

I was privileged to be shown the Visitor’s Book which the above artists had signed, often adding quirky pen drawings or full-colour artworks.

A visit to Farley Farm House is truly an inspiring experience which I urge you to explore. The House is open for guided tours from April to October; the tour dates left for this year are:

August 21st/Sept 4th and 18th/Oct 2nd and 16th

It is also open on the following dates during the Chiddingly Festival: Sept 24th and 25th; October 1st and 2nd

No need to pre-book. Full details at the website:



This is a truly remarkable and moving documentary by Antony Penrose about his mother’s life (available through Amazon and on Lovefilm)

It was only after his mother’s death that Antony discovered in the attic a huge cache of Lee’s photographic work, personal writings and possessions. Lee had been traumatised by her wartime experiences and had hidden all her work away for more than 20 years. Antony has rescued and catalogued almost of all of the 60,000 images she took, has authored books and curated exhibitions of her work. As a result, Lee is now considered one of the great women photographers of the 20th century and the quality and vision of her photos matches the work of many of her more famous male counterparts.

image The book ‘The Lives of Lee Miller’ by Antony Penrose is published by Thames & Hudson.

See also: Lee Miller Archive

Lee was the one-time lover and muse of Man Ray who took some of the most beautiful pictures of her.  She was originally  his photographic assistant but went on to establish her own photographic studio. She and Man Ray rediscovered the technique of solarisation as a result of a happy accident. This famous Man Ray painting  - ‘A L’Heure de l’observatoire, les amoureaux’ (c. 1934) - features Lee’s lips.

Other Links:

Lee Miller and Man Ray: crazy in love

The Roland Penrose website

The Art of Lee Miller

Lee Miller by Ursula Butler

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