Henry Miller’s daughter plans to sell her father’s most personal art.
Thursday, June 2, 2005
Days before the 25th anniversary of her famous father’s death, Valentine Miller will launch a Web site to sell literary giant Henry Miller’s personal collection of watercolor and oil paintings.
The Web site, www.henrymiller.info, is scheduled to be up and running by June 3.
“I’ve wanted to do it for a long time,” Valentine Miller says. “The paintings have been in storage for years now. They’re hard to part with. It’s strange—they’re painful to sell, but now’s the time.”
The large collection of paintings—mostly watercolors—is signed by Henry Miller. His daughter says they represent his most personal body of artistic work.
“Many of the paintings have inscriptions that read ‘For Henry to Henry by Henry,’” she says. “I think they have a lot more intrinsic value than the ones in the Coast Gallery.”
The Coast Gallery in Big Sur has been selling prints and original artwork by Henry Miller since the 1970s. Henry Miller lived in Big Sur from 1944 to 1963.
Valentine, who lives in Monterey, shares two-thirds control of their father’s estate with her brother. She says he was hesitant to get involved with the venture and would like to remain anonymous. According to Miller, the final third of the estate belonged to a half-sister who left her share to a psychologist when she died.
Miller says her brother didn’t want to sell her father’s art. “But with the anniversary of dad’s death approaching, I decided to get on it,” she says.“Dad painted for joy, not for selling or to make a buck. He painted because he loved the process.”
Generally regarded as one of the most important writers in 20th-century American literature, Henry Miller was also a prolific painter who painted more than 2,000 watercolors over six decades, and had more than 60 international exhibitions. His paintings are in museums and private collections in Japan, Europe and the US.
A majority of the paintings hung on the walls of Henry Miller’s final home in Pacific Palisades until his death on June 7, 1980. They languished in a storage facility until his daughter recently decided to create a Web site to sell them.
Valentine contacted Salinas design firm Full Steam Marketing and Design, which built the site to house the personal collection. In addition to the art gallery, the site will also include a tribute page for Henry Miller fans, a short biography of both Henry and Valentine Miller, and request and contact information.
Various companies contact the estate, Miller says, asking for permission to use quotes from Henry Miller’s literary art.
“We also get script ideas and, of course, correspondence from the wackos,” she adds.
Initially, the site will only feature “a handful” of her father’s pieces, but Miller says she plans to rotate in new work on a regular basis.
“I’ll be putting new ones up hopefully as they sell,” she says. “Even if they don’t move I’ll put in new ones. Hopefully the rotation of new work will keep people interested. Maybe there won’t be any interest. I don’t know.”
The site will also be selling a number of works by Beat collage artist and renowned bon vivant Jean Varda.
Magnus Toren, director of Big Sur’s Henry Miller Library, a small private institution dedicated to keeping the memory of the writer alive, says public response may be weak. “How she’ll do is anybody’s guess,” Toren says.
During his lifetime, Henry Miller sold very few paintings, mostly trading them for things he needed or giving them away to friends.
“When I write, I work,” Henry Miller once said, “but when I paint, I play.”
Approximate number of students who graduated with
CSU Monterey Bay’s class of 2005—its biggest
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