Thursday 18 April 2013

Man Ray and Lee Miller

Suki and I had planned to visit the Man Ray exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery while we were in London. However Suki was busy scribbling. Poems or a new blog post I suppose. So I went on my own.

I stopped off at the V&A. They claim to have an "internationally renowned collection of photographs". However they only exhibit a few in a small gallery. They did show four by Man Ray.

Though my favourite in the gallery may have been Women spreading out their saris before the sun by Heni Cartier-Bresson.

The other reason for popping into the V&A is of course that they have a great cafe. However as it was Easter week it was completely packed. I managed to get a place at a table opposite a skinny (skinnier than Suki - really) art student bashing out something onto her battered Apple MacBook. Her iPhone was by the side of it and looked so damaged it could have been through a war zone. How do you get your stuff so bashed about visiting art galleries? It must be more dangerous than I thought. I need to take more care.

Intermittently I looked at her strangely shaped face when I wasn't busy scraping the lathering of mustard off my pastrami brioche to make it edible without sneezing the contents of my sandwich and my nose across at her.

I did get a quick snap of the cafe.

I went on to the National Portrait Gallery and decided not to go into the Man Ray exhibition after all. It was nearly half past four and I was meeting a friend from work soon after five. £15 seemed a lot to pay for a quick look round. I spent my time instead first of all in the bookshop going through all the Man Ray books they had there. The best one was of him together with Lee Miller (Partners in Surrealism.) Lee was in turn his student, his collaborator and his lover. That period at the end of the twenties and beginning of the thirties gave rise to some great work from both of them. He of course is more famous because he is a man.

However Lee Miller was a fantastic photographer in her own right. As well as the surrealist work she created with Man she later became a war photographer and a fashion photographer. She was at the liberation of the concentration camps at Buchenwald and Dachau. That had a lasting effect on her - she toured Europe unable to understand after the war why everything could not have been made so much better. 

Some of the photographs attributed to Man Ray were taken by Lee Miller. She deserves greater recognition.

The book about her and Man Ray cost £25. I thought how much better value that was compared with £15 to look round the exhibition.

I had a quick sprint round the contemporary galleries while deciding whether to get it then found myself walking through Trafalgar Square on the way to Embankment tube station, still trying to decide. Perhaps someone will buy me it for my birthday.

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