Portfolio: Lee Miller


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The Independent Culture

Pablo Picasso, the painter, sculptor, founder of Cubism and creator of some 25,000 works of art, was also, it seems, something of a clown.

In the artist's home, in Cannes, France, sat a sideboard piled high with masks, hats and the paraphernalia of fancy dress. When guests came to visit, they were required to don one of these masks to wear around the house, while Picasso would adorn himself in the manner depicted above. It proved a great ice-breaker: it's hard to feel overawed when your host is wearing a false nose. And it's a side to the man that sculptor Antony Penrose wants us to see more of.

"Picasso is often seen as serious – the person who painted Guernica – and hence impossible to relate to," says Penrose, who has curated a new exhibition entitled Picasso at Play. "I wanted to show aspects of him that were playful in a way that a younger audience could understand."

Penrose was just three years old when he first met Picasso, at his then-family home at Farley Farm House, Chiddingly, in East Sussex. His mother was the great American war photographer and model Lee Miller, whose close friendship with the painter allowed her to take a series of shots of him at his home, at play and at the Miller family home, which Picasso visited several times during his life.

And it is her photos of Picasso that Penrose has chosen for this exhibition, from a 1950 shot in which, dressed in tweed, he points to the village signpost to one of him splashing about on France's Côte d'Azur with his son. "I only knew him as a child," says Penrose, "but he had a great affinity for small children. They helped him improvise; it's why, I think, he got on better with them than adults." 1


Two exhibitions, Picasso at Play and Roland Penrose Surrealist Camera, are at Farley Farm House, East Sussex, from Tuesday until 22 July. They are free to view to those who purchase a tour of the house and gardens (farleyfarmhouse.co.uk)