Lee Miller - Photographs New York Saturday, November 14, 2009 | Phillips

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  • Literature

    Haworth-Booth, The Art of Lee Miller, pl. 85; Penrose, The Lives of Lee Miller, p. 54

  • Catalogue Essay

    Miller, a world-class beauty whose legendary looks graced the pages of Vogue on both sides of the Atlantic, at one point admitted that she would “rather take a picture than be one,” and rightfully so. In November of 1932, after returning to New York from a three-year stay in Paris during which she became involved with the Surrealists and in particular, Man Ray, Miller set up Lee Miller Studios on 48th street. Despite the initial hardships, the studio flourished, and Miller’s clients included Elizabeth Arden, Helena Rubinstein, Camay, Saks Fifth Avenue, Warner Brothers, and in an ironic twist, Vogue.
    Additionally, Miller contributed to the New York journal Creative Art, which featured works by some of the most renowned photographers of the day, including Edward Steichen, Charles Sheeler, and Paul Outerbridge, and counted Alfred Stieglitz as a member of its editorial board. It was not long before Miller’s work was featured in the blue-chip Julien Levy Gallery, joining the ranks of André Kertész, Ilse Bing, László Moholy-Nagy, her old master Man Ray, and Joseph Cornell, to name but a few.
    Cornell, famous for his boxes and collages, was among the most salient artists at Julien Levy, and his show preceded Miller’s at the gallery. Miller was drawn to Cornell for his talent and association with Surrealism, and it is clear from works that each produced of the other that the interest was mutual. Cornell’s boxes, despite their intimate scale, were powerful in their juxtaposing of seemingly disparate objects into beautifully coherent compositions that spoke of human desire, harbored secrets, faded dreams, and undying wishes. The recluse artist was known for his obsession with famous beautiful women and young pretty girls. Often creating boxes celebrating the beauty of his subjects of desire, Cornell, at times, even gave his creations away to those with whom he was besotted. While it is not known whether Cornell gifted Miller with such a box, it is known that he had presented her with the bell jar seen in the image, most likely as a courting gesture. Untitled (Joseph Cornell Object) functions as a testament to the unlikely bond between the glamorous photographer and the timid artist, and the important contribution by each to the cultural dialogue of the time.


Object by Joseph Cornell Object

Gelatin silver print, mounted.
8 1/8 x 6 1/4 in. (20.6 x 15.9 cm).
Signed in pencil on the recto; signed, dated and insribed 'for Julien, In deepest appreciation, Joseph Cornell, Nov. 1933' by Joseph Cornell in ink and Lee Miller credit stamp on the verso.

$30,000 - 40,000 

Sold for $62,500


14 Nov 2009
New York