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In the footsteps of Lee Miller and the surrealists: a tour of her arty Sussex retreat | Sussex holidays

In the footsteps of Lee Miller and the surrealists: a tour of her arty Sussex retreat | Sussex holidays

There’s an original Picasso tile – of an abstract face with a yellow nose – roughly cemented into the wall above the Aga in the kitchen of Farleys House in East Sussex. “Patsy [the housekeeper] used to scrub it with Vim,” says Jenny, my guide. “Lee and Roland believed art was to be lived with – not just for a museum.”

The pair in question are Lee Miller (American model, muse, fashion photographer turned second world war correspondent for Vogue) and her husband, Roland Penrose (surrealist painter, author and co-founder of London’s Institute of Contemporary Art). They moved into this house in Muddles Green, Chiddingly, with their two-year-old son Antony in 1949. From the street, the modest Queen Anne facade gives no hint of the colourful world inside.

Lee Miller at Farleys House circa 1960; and Kate Winslet playing Miller in the forthcoming film called Lee. Photograph: Lee Miller Archives; Kimberley French/Sky UK

Miller’s story is set to hit the silver screen in September with Lee, starring and produced by Kate Winslet. A passion project of Winslet’s and 10 years in the making, it tells of an extraordinary life – and will undoubtedly bring more visitors to her former home.

“Kate captures the essence of Lee,” Antony tells me as we chat over tea in what was his childhood bedroom. “She spent a lot of time at Farleys, conducting very immersive research, going through the archives, asking questions. She wanted the film to be authentic. It’s a film about a woman made by a team of women, which was important too.”

Though views of the Downs were filmed here, a replica of the sitting room was created in a studio in Budapest. But “everything is spot on, even the paintings on the walls were perfectly recreated,” says Antony.

Visitors to Farleys can join a fascinating tour and wander the sculpture gardens and gallery spaces. The kitchen is still in its 1950s glory – complete with condiments in the cupboards. A Picasso sketch made in 1950 hangs on the wall: it’s of Grasshopper Bulls, an ink drawing inspired by the couple’s bull, William.

The dining room is painted the yellow of Farmers Weekly, to which Penrose (a “gentleman farmer”) subscribed. His bright mural, inspired by the Long Man of Wilmington – which can be seen from the house – decorates the fireplace and surrealist paintings hang on the walls. A cabinet of curiosities…

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