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Sunday, August 16, 2020


"Dejeuner sur l'herbe, 1937," clockwise from top: Roland Penrose, Man Ray, Ady Fidelin, Nusch and Paul Eluard. Image by Lee Miller.
Two mediums: painting and photography.  Viva La France.

"Dejeuner sur l'herbe, 1862" by Eduoard Manet.

The artist must have sensed his immortal (certainly not immoral) painting “Le Dejeuner Sur L’Herbe” would have raised prudish eyebrows, especially during the Victorian era.  But bold he was and here it is by modern standards almost sedate. View Emile Zola’s defense of Manet’s nude at the end of this blog, which basically concludes “it’s only skin.”

Model Lee Miller poses for a fashion spread
photographed for Vogue Magazine, 1928
by Edward Steichen.
Locale: Manhattan apartment of Conde Nast.
This firebrand Vogue model (discovered by Conde Nast), professional photographer (photo student to Surrealist Man Ray), lover to the famous and not so famous, admirer of run on sentences and an acclaimed war correspondent, who seldom shied away from either side of the camera) is seen picnicking (perhaps on her 30th  birthday [1907-1977) in Mougins, France.
Clockwise from top, Lee Miller, age 30, Man Ray, model Ady Fidelin,
Nusch and Paul Eluard.

The photo directly above was taken by Roland Penrose, who was married to Lee from 1947 until her death in 1977.  Note. In the same top photo, Penrose is missing from the image and in the lower shot Lee Miller is absent.  Deduction: the Lee and Roland snapped the photos, Hercule.

You’ll also note the women in this intimate circle (all top models in their day) posed topless.  It leads one to believe they were performing in an informal group pastiche to Manet’s “Le Dejeuner...” painting.  That artistic nod would have crossed the minds of this group, which was led by Miller and her ex-lover and mentor Man Ray (right), who is seated next to his at the time love and his favorite model, Ady Fidelin, 25, a dancer and one of the first black fashion models.  She hailed from the French Caribbean island of Guadalupe. The other couple is Mr. and Mrs. Paul and the glamorously notorious model and performer Maria “Nusch” Eluard.  Lee Miller is the blonde at the top.

Notably absent from the circle session were icon surrealists Pablo Picasso, who lived not to far from the picnic site and Max Ernst.  It should be noted Paul Eluard, a French poet, who helped found the Surrealist movement is one of the important lyrical poets of the 20th century.

Lee avec Ady

After a third photo from the same roll of film, above, will exit here for obvious reasons.

But easily found on the Internet are other casual shots from this famous circle of friends.

Circle of Friends, continued, a timed image by Man Ray, photographed at Villa Myriam, in Philippeville, Algeria, the home of art Patrons Marie Cuttoli and radical socialist senator from Algeria Paul Cuttoli). From left to right, foreground, Man Ray, Pablo Picasso, model/photographer Dora Maar [cq].  Above, (L-R) Adrienne Fidelin and Madame Cuttoli and the Senator.
This photograph was taken of a teenage Lee Miller by her father Theodor Miller.
Lee Miller photographed herself in 1945 in the bathtub of Hitler’s
apartment  in Munich. She was an acclaimed
war correspondent during WWII attached to the U.S. Army.

Lee Miller's father visited her and her art college roommate Tanja Ramm in 1930.  He convinced the roommates to pose for him.
The Harem: Tanja Ramm, Man Ray and Lee Miller, 1930
Lee Miller photo by David Scherman
French poet, filmmaker Jean Cocteau outside his apartment in 
the Palais Royale, Paris, 1944.
Photo by Lee Miller.
Speaking of  Jean Cocteau, the artist’s tapestry appears behind the bed occupied by Lee Miller, left, sharing the International Herald Tribune with popular Parisian model Tanja Ramm, in Lee’s photo studio, Paris, 1931.

Ady Fidelin, Lee Miller, Pablo Picasso, Nusch Eluard.  Photo by Roland Penrose, Hotel Vaste Horizon, Mougins, France, 1937.

Lee Miller, war correspondent

Commentary by Emile Zola.
Author Emile Zola defended Manet’s critics with the following essay:
“...This is the greatest work of Édouard Manet, one in which he realizes the dream of all painters: to place figures of natural grandeur in a landscape. We know the power with which he vanquished this difficulty.

There are some leaves, some tree trunks, and, in the background, a river in which a chemise-wearing woman bathes; in the foreground, two young men are seated across from a second woman who has just exited the water and who dries her naked skin in the open air. This nude woman has scandalized the public, who see only her in the canvas.

My God! What indecency: a woman without the slightest covering between two clothed men! That has never been seen. And this belief is a gross error, for in the Louvre there are more than fifty paintings in which are found mixes of persons clothed and nude. But no one goes to the Louvre to be scandalized.

The crowd has kept itself moreover from judging The Luncheon on the Grass like a veritable work of art should be judged; they see in it only some people who are having a picnic, finishing bathing, and they believed that the artist had placed an obscene intent in the disposition of the subject, while the artist had simply sought to obtain vibrant oppositions and a straightforward audience. Painters, especially Édouard Manet, who is an analytic painter, do not have this preoccupation with the subject which torments the crowd above all; the subject, for them, is merely a pretext to paint, while for the crowd, the subject alone exists.

Thus, assuredly, the nude woman of The Luncheon on the Grass is only there to furnish the artist the occasion to paint a bit of flesh. That which must be seen in the painting is not a luncheon on the grass; it is the entire landscape, with its vigors and its finesses, with its foregrounds so large, so solid, and its backgrounds of a light delicateness; it is this firm modeled flesh under great spots of light, these tissues supple and strong, and particularly this delicious silhouette of a woman wearing a chemise who makes, in the background, an adorable dapple of white in the milieu of green leaves.

It is, in short, this vast ensemble, full of atmosphere, this corner of nature rendered with a simplicity so just, all of this admirable page in which an artist has placed all the particular and rare elements which are in him.”

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