A personal profile of giant figures in 20th Century art.Picasso, Man Ray and Max Ernst were three of the key artists of the 20th Century.
This talk contains war and holocaust images that are highly disturbing.
The following text has been taken from the website of the University of Falmouth. It describes an exhibition entitled "A Surrealists' Holiday", held in Falmouth Art Gallery during the summer of 2005.
This summer, Falmouth Art Gallery recreates this unique event in The Surrealists on Holiday, a major new exhibition that opens on 19 June. It promises a fresh insight into the social and artistic world of Roland Penrose and Lee Miller, and features a collection of their previously unpublished photographs of some of the leading lights of the Surrealist movement, including Max Ernst, Man Ray, Henry Moore, Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Eileen Agar, Leonora Carrington and Paul Eluard. Alongside will be works by each of these artists.
Roland Penrose is generally credited as bringing Surrealism to Britain and was a driving force of the movement, producing some of its most enduring images. He developed close and lasting friendships with Picasso, Miró, Man Ray, and Ernst. He married Lee Miller, who is acknowledged as one of the greatest photographers of all time. Her photographs of World War II remain some of the most startling images of the atrocities of war ever taken.
It was while researching a biography of his mother Lee Miller that Antony Penrose discovered the extraordinary photographs taken by her and Roland on that holiday to Cornwall. In the summer of 1937 Roland had rented his brother Beacus's house at Lambe Creek situated by the River Fal in Cornwall.
Antony Penrose writes in the exhibition catalogue:
The creeks of the Fal estuary have an ancient reputation as a refuge for wanted men. Smugglers, privateers, pirates and just regular criminals have all defied authority from secret places on these rugged, leafy shores. In June 1937 it was the turn of the Surrealist artist Max Ernst to test their efficacy.
'Ernst had just arrived from Paris and was staying with Roland Penrose at his house in London when he learned that a warrant had been issued for his arrest. The grounds were that his exhibition at The Mayor Gallery in Cork Street contained pornographic material. Max's work was as always stridently Surrealist, and it was clear that not even the most enthusiastic policeman would be able to bring a charge on the basis of pornography, but there was no mystery as to the origin of the warrant.
Max had fallen in love with the British painter Leonora Carrington, who aged 20 was 26 years his junior and the daughter of a prominent Lancashire family who vehemently disapproved of the relationship. Leonora's father had persuaded the police to take an interest with a view to having Max deported. Fortunately, Roland had previously agreed to rent his brother Beacus's Lambe Creek House for three weeks and without a word to anyone they all left for Cornwall.'
Just a few days before his arrival in Lambe Creek, Roland had met Lee Miller, the new love of his life at a fancy dress party in Paris. Roland described the experience of his first glimpse of Lee Miller as being struck by a bolt of lightning. The sensation was compounded when at that precise moment the entire party was thrown out in the street by the owners of the house who had returned unexpectedly, and severely disapproved of their daughter's Surrealist friends.
Man Ray's career had forged ahead steadily, and he was recognised as a prominent Surrealist photographer, painter and maker of enigmatic objects. His most famous piece, Object to be Destroyed, was made when he fixed a photograph of Lee's eye to the pendulum of a metronome whilst in a jealous rage. The relentless ticking of the vacillating eye reminded him of every second she was absent with another lover.
Henry Moore and his wife Irena were visiting Cornwall and called in at Lambe Creek. The Belgian Surrealist poet and art dealer Édouard Mesens arrived to stay. Back in Belgium a few weeks later he would introduce Roland and Lee to the painters Paul Delvaux and René Magritte. He came with Joseph Bard the writer and Eileen Agar, the British Surrealist painter who wrote: 'It was a delightful Surrealist house party that July, with Roland taking the lead, ready to turn the slightest encounter into an orgy. I remember going off to watch Lee taking a bubble-bath, but there was not quite enough room in the tub for all of us. The Surrealists were always supposed to be such immoral monsters, but I for one did not go to bed with everybody who asked me. When would I have had time to paint?' In fact Eileen found time for an intense affair with Paul, while Joseph willingly diverted himself with Nusch.
World War II was to drastically impact on the lives of all those who took part in this Cornish idyll. By 1952 Paul and Nusch Éluard had died, mainly as a result of the privations they suffered as members of the French Resistance. Max Ernst and Leonora Carrington, Man Ray and Ady Fidelin were torn apart by the war. All but Ady went on to distinguished careers as artists, and Carrington still lives and works in Mexico and America. Roland Penrose continued to work as an artist until he died, but was also known for his biographies of Picasso, Man Ray, Joan Miró and Antoni Tàpies. He was knighted for his services to contemporary art, which included founding the ICA in London. Lee Miller buried her career as a photographer after the war, possibly as a result of the traumas she had witnessed as a combat photographer with the US Army. Her photographs of Max Ernst and his wife the American painter Dorothea Tanning taken in 1950 at Killiow, Beacus Penrose's new house, were some of the last she took.
Antony Penrose writes: "By now Surrealism in its revolutionary status had been another casualty of the war, with its most vociferously reviled works becoming revered exhibits in museums. But no museum can contain its spirit, and Surrealism is today an inseparable part of our lives, informing us, provoking us and pointing us to a reality that lies beyond our normal compass. Surrealist art and artefacts may be behind glass, but we still have its genius with us, and Lambe Creek has a small part of that genius to call its own."