Portrait of Space

Portrait of Space-Lee Miller 1937
Lee Miller’s haunting Portrait of Space qualifies as one of the most enigmatic of Surrealist images. While married to her wealthy Egyptian husband in Cairo in the mid 1930’s Miller felt the need to escape to the desert where the photograph was taken. It is not a portrait of a person but the desert landscape, however in true Surrealist fashion parts of the landscape bear a resemblance to facial features. Uncannily the clouds look like the floating lips in Man Rays painting The Lovers (see Dreams of Desire 12 (The Lovers)) from 1934 which are of course modelled on Miller’s own lips. The hillock on the right could be the Eye atop the pyramid on the dollar bill and the gaping hole in the fly screen is the eye that reveals and illuminates the scene for us.

50 thoughts on “Portrait of Space

      1. Mr. Cake, this is still and will probably always be my favorite Lee Miller photograph. Good news on the Tanguy and Sage front, I’m moving right along. Finally some inspiration, the words have arrived in droves. ~ Miss Cranes

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  1. I have an affinity for the desert so automatically have affection for this. The ‘eye’ at the top right is subtle but I see it. The shading and contrast make for an intriguing piece – excellent post!

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      1. Indeed… I did another post on one of her self portraits and of course I mentioned in yet another post that she discovered the solarisation process that Man Ray used to great effect…somewhere here.

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  2. It’s really amazing how this plain picture may be interpreted… Actually I’m especially fascinated by the grid-like kind of curtain thing at the front. It has got a huge resemblance with a carbon grid that is used for transmission electron microscopy, nerdy piece of fact, I’m sorry, but it was the first thing that came to my mind and I wanted to share. This ripped tissue gives the whole scene a special kind of plasticity, one feels it may be touched just by reaching out one’s arm. Thank you for sharing and your splendid elaborations, just as always.

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    1. Thank you for your unique perspective, obviously with your different background you saw something that I never would. The photograph is cool and enigmatic and can be read in some many ways, which is a mark of its excellence. Glad you enjoyed!

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