It was the eerie and otherworldly Arizona desert that American photographer Lee Miller chose as the setting for her 1946 double portrait of surrealist artist Max Ernst and his wife, Dorothea Tanning.
Miller’s own early background in surrealism was always reflected in her work, and her sleight of hand in this tongue-in-cheek rendering of the doll-like Tanning and the giant (in his own mind?) Ernst is a typical example of her idiosyncratic approach.
Taken during a visit to America with her English husband, artist Roland Penrose, this photograph is among Miller’s late work. After her photo essays on the horrors of Dachau and the aftermath of the Second World War in dangerous and remote locations in eastern Europe, photography held less appeal for Miller, and she turned down most assignments that were offered. One of the few subjects that did interest her in this period, and for which she would usually accept a commission, were portraits of fellow artists.
Maureen Smith is the facilities and program manager of the University of Toronto Art Centre. The Legendary Lee Miller was on exhibit until June 30, 2000.