“I want the Utopian combination of security and freedom and emotionally, I need to be completely absorbed in some work or in a man I love.”
– Lee Miller
© Tony Tree
As you approach the traditional Sussex farmhouse that is Farleys House, at the charmingly named Muddles Green, you would be forgiven for driving straight past, as it gives absolutely no hint of the many aesthetic delights to be discovered within its walls and grounds. If you do venture within however, you will find brightly coloured walls, rambling corridors and generously proportioned oddly asymmetric rooms filled with an eclectic and colourful collection of artworks, coupled with delightfully eccentric grounds peppered with unusual and quirky objet d’art. All of which provide the visitor with a glimpse into the remarkable lives of its former occupants, Lee Miller and Sir Roland Penrose, and their son Antony – also known as ‘The Boy who bit Picasso’.
Born in Poughkeepsie, New York, Lee Miller first worked as a model and assistant to artist Man Ray in the 1920s but is best known for being one of the most remarkable photographers of the 20th century. She was a noted surrealist, studio and fashion photographer, and war correspondent whose work for Vogue during the second world war is considered her most important contribution to photography. She was famously photographed by American Life magazine correspondent and photographer David E. Scherman, in Hitler’s bathtub in his private apartment in Munich, where she was living when his death was announced in April 1945.
Knighted for his services to modern art in Britain,Sir Roland Penrose was the co-founder of the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London in 1947 and produced books on the works of his friends Pablo Picasso, Max Ernst, Joan Miró, Man Ray and Antoni Tàpies. He was also a trustee of the Tate, where he organised a survey of Picasso’s work in 1960.
Pablo Picasso, Max Ernst, Joan Miró, Man Ray and Leonora Carrington among many others were frequent visitors to Farleys, now referred to as ‘Home of the Surrealists” and works by many of them can be seen displayed in the house, which is open to the public on Sundays and Thursdays from April to October annually. Every time I visit, I notice something different, but I must confess my most favourite thing to do is simply wander around the gardens, and completely immerse myself in the incredible energy of the place. If you are very lucky you may bump into Antony, who has an encyclopaedic knowledge of his parents work and Farleys, which he willingly and most generously shares when called upon to undertake house tours. Antony’s daughter Ami is also an integral part of the Farleys team. In 2017 she published a cookbook of her grandmother’s recipes titled Lee Miller: A life with Food Friends & Recipes, which is available to purchase from the on-site shop and online via the website.
As well as the house, Farleys also boasts two gallery spaces. Farleys Gallery is housed in a beautiful, old Sussex barn adjacent to Farleys House. 2022 will see exhibitions by Dorothea Tanning, the Lee Miller archive, Grace Pailthorpe as well as well-known Hasting’s photographer John Cole. The new Lee Miller Gallery is designed to exhibit larger scale exhibitions and this year is dedicated to Farleys in the Fifties.
In August Farleys plays host to the Surrealist Picnic. Now in its 5th year, this fantastical event takes place in Farleys beautiful sculpture garden. This unique event includes live jazz with two bands, surreal performance, and dance. Slip on your surreal costume, create your surreal picnic food, and let your imagination run wild! It really is an event not to be missed. Tickets can be booked via the Farleys House and Gallery website
Farleys House & Gallery
Home of the Surrealists, Muddles Green, Chiddingly, East Sussex.
Written by Lesley Samms MSc ANLP MAC; Founder Pure Arts Group – www.pureartsgroup.co.uk
Images courtesy of the Lee Miller Archives