- Lee Miller
- UNTITLED (IRON WORK)
- Gelatin silver print
- 8 7/8 by 6 3/4 in. (22.5 by 17.3 cm.)
To his descendants
Phillips New York, The Verneuil Collection: Photographs from Paris, 1928-1935, 6 April 1998, Sale 781, Lot 57
Rosalind Kraus and Jane Livingston, L’Amour Fou: Photography and Surrealism (Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1985), p. 222, fig. 206
Jane Livingston, Lee Miller, Photographer (New York, 1989), pl. 29
Christian Bouqueret, Des Années Folles aux Années Noires: La Nouvelle Vision Photographique en France, 1920-1940 (Paris, 1997), p. 99
Mark Haworth-Booth, The Art of Lee Miller (Yale University Press, 2007), pl. 49
Trained at l’Ecole de Dessin et Beaux-Arts, Verneuil became a major proponent of Art Nouveau: his work in this style included illustration, wallpaper, ceramics design, posters, and furniture. On a 1922 trip to Java and Cambodia, Verneuil documented the indigenous decorative arts and cultures with a camera. Verneuil exhibited and published these photographs upon his return to Paris and became increasingly involved in the city’s active photo scene. It was during this period that he began to collect the work of other photographers.
With its precise composition and surprising luminosity, Untitled (Iron Work) incorporates Miller’s sophisticated sense of design and her ability to locate the Surreal in the real world. It is a remarkably accomplished image for a photographer to have made so early in her career, from both an aesthetic and a technical point of view. In Miller’s print, with its deep, charcoal-black ironwork and bright white sunlit wall, an architectural detail is transformed into a lyrical, abstract study of tonal values.
Early prints of any of Miller’s photographs are scarce. The present print is the only example of this image believed to have come to auction. All of the above-listed literature reproduces the same print, the one owned by the Art Institute of Chicago. That print was originally in the collection of pioneering gallerist Julien Levy, who gave Miller her first solo exhibition in 1932-33, and also included her work in Modern European Photography, Exhibition of Portrait Photography, and Exhibition of Anti-Graphic Photography.