HEMORIES OF HENRY MILLER
(Excerpts from article published in Japan Art Journal 1994 by Joy Moos. Copyright 1994)
Henry Miller is not only the only author who was an artist. In Europe the tradition is an old one and includes such illustrious writers as Victor Hugo, William Blake and Goethe.
Miller’s paintings clearly show influence by Chagall and Klee, but he was also a great admirer of artists John Martin, Roualt and Grosz among others. “I have been influenced by both bad writers and bad painters as well as good ones.”
He never had formal training and learned through trail and error.
For Miller, life was the teacher.
After a two-year correspondence with Miller, I met him at his home in Pacific Palisades in May 1975. I had read and collected his books since I was a teenager and knew he was a talented painter as well. The prospect of meeting him at the age of eighty was thrilling and the following are excerpts from my journal during that extraordinary visit.
“Joy Moos- Please come in. Door is open. Henry is waiting for you in his room. Wake him if he is asleep- Tony Miller”
My heart leapt at thought of actually waking Henry Miller!
I entered his room, leaned over and awakened him. We smiled-kissed ’hello’ as I propped his seat rest up behind him.
In gruff-like voice he thanked me and told me to sit at the foot of his bed.
And we talked, and we talked.
We touched on so many subjects and his views seemed steeped in the philosophy I had read so long ago in his books.
To see this Henry Miller confined mainly to bed, arthritic; loss of sight in one eye and wearing a hearing aid –to actually be with him, simply shakes and touches me as no other experience has.
Our conversation flows on and on. We speak about Children. We talk about Fans. We spoke about Food.
He loves having a different cook each night and has lists of women who offer to prepare dinner for him.
Asks if I am a good cook!
‘Just look at me Henry Miller, I reply. Do I cook’?
The first visit touched on so many subjects from playing the piano, to Noel Coward and Kate Hepburn, from Authors to Museums and Oriental women.
And today, finally, we talk about his paintings.
Miller’s work is of such exuberance and spontaneity that I wondered where his vision came from.
“Well, I hopeless at learning…yet my style changes day to day. After doing some 3,000 watercolours I have a pretty good idea of what I am doing…yet I am always searching. I like to use a variety of symbols- and I repeat them- you know? One is the Star of David. Why? I couldn’t tell you. And a half moon or crescent moon.
“I really don’t have any reason for doing anything. That’s why it has always been difficult to write or talk about my painting…..
The colours talk to me- and I implore them to show me the way. Often groping, using pencil, crayon, ink – whatever comes to hand, to give me ground for experiment”
Later, I am shown nine watercolours. I’m enthralled. I wish to purchase them all.
But this will not be any easy transaction…
My Life and Times by Henry Miller
The Paintings of Henry Miller 1891-1980
(Paint As You Like and Die Happy) isbn 0-87701-276-8