Throughout art history, the muse has played a central role in the artist’s process. The modern art muse has found its most frequent embodiment in women, from Victorine Muerent to Camille Claudel to Kiki de Montparnasse to Marie-Therese Walter (and the numerous other women portrayed by Picasso). Female muses have been both model and artistic catalyst to their typically more famous male collaborators, even though their own creative production is often considered of equal value. Lee Miller, one of the subjects of the special exhibition Man Ray | Lee Miller: Partners in Surrealism (on view at the Legion of Honor through October 14), has long been pigeonholed as Man Ray’s muse. But, as this exhibition reveals, Miller’s relationship with Man Ray was only the beginning of her journey from muse to master.
Man Ray (American, 1890–1976). Portrait of Lee Miller–Flying Head, c. 1930. Vintage gelatin silver print. Lee Miller Archives, England © 2012 Man Ray Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY / ADAGP, Paris