Roland Penrose was as bad an artist as his second wife Lee Miller was as great a photographer. Sure, there is nothing wrong technically with his work but it was all done by somebody else before him and better than him. Yes he knew the great and the good of art but their influence on his work is too noticeable for him to be considered anything other than a second-rate artist.
What Penrose should be remembered for other than being Mr. Miller is for his work in promoting the arts in the UK and for his address book which read like a who's who of 20th-century art.
He co-organised the London International Surrealist Exhibition of 1936; opened the London Gallery on Cork Street; co-founded the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London in 1947; wrote books on friends like Pablo Picasso, Max Ernst, Joan Miró and Man Ray; and was a Tate Gallery trustee for many years. In this capacity he achieved what is his greatest legacy: using his contacts to buy for the nation pieces by Picasso at discounted rates.
He built up a sizeable collection of art of his own. He and Miller bought Farley Farm in Sussex which they used to house the collection. The farm is still in the family possession and where their son, Antony Penrose now runs his mother's archives.
Penrose was married to Miller from 1947 to her death in 1977. He died seven years after her. His first wife was the poet Valentine Boue (1925-1937).
He was knighted for his services to the visual arts in 1966. How anyone who supposedly subscribed to the Surrealist doctrine was able to accept such an award is beyond me.
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