Henry Valentine Miller was born 26 December 1891, in Manhattan, to children of German
immigrants, Heinrich Miller and Louise Nieting. A younger sister, Lauretta Anna,
born in 1895. Within a year of Miller's birth, the family moved to Brooklyn. He
graduated from high school second in his class in 1909, then spent one semester
New York's City College, but left after finding the environment unbearable.
In 1915, Miller took piano lessons with Beatrice Wickens, whom he married in 1917.
Their daughter, Barbara, was born in 1919. For five years, Miller was employment
manager at Western Union Telegraph Company. He frequently visited a friend from
school days, Emil Schnellock, an advertising artist who had a studio in New York
City. Miller liked to watch Schnellock at work, and from this association Miller
developed an interest in watercolor painting.
In the summer of 1923, Miller met June Mansfield, an exotic dancer. He and Beatrice
divorced in December 1923, and he married June in 1924. June persuaded Miller
quit his Western Union job in order to write full time. In late 1926, June began
intimate relationship with Greenwich Village artist Jean Kronski. Kronski soon
in with the Millers, and as the two women carried on their relationship, Miller
experienced fits of jealousy and even attempted suicide. In April 1927, June and
Jean left together for Paris, and Miller expressed his despair in extensive notes,
which would become the source material for much of his later autobiographical
writing, particularly Tropic of Capricorn (1939) and
The Rosy Crucifixion (1949-1960).
In 1929, Miller began writing his novel Crazy Cock
(1981). Around this time he started to develop a passion for painting watercolors,
and studied art history. Emil Schnellock introduced him to Italian art and Walter
Pater's Studies in the History of the Renaissance,
and Miller read Elie Faure's History of Art.
Miller journeyed to Paris in 1930, where he spent several lonely months reading and
visiting art galleries where he saw the works of Joan Miró, Max Jacob, and Marie
Laurencin. In December 1931, Miller was introduced to Anaïs Nin, who was married
the wealthy banker Hugh Guiler. The Guilers' house at Louveciennes outside Paris
became a refuge for Miller, and in March, Miller and Nin began a love affair.
was a source of encouragement for Miller, and by October he had finished writing
Tropic of Cancer (1934). As a result of praise from
writers such as Blaise Cendrars and Ezra Pound, the book gained a reputation as
In December 1934, Henry and June Miller divorced, and Henry hoped to marry Anaïs Nin.
Miller followed Nin to New York in 1935 and while there finished Black Spring (1936), which included a description of
himself painting a watercolor in the passage "The Angel
Is My Watermark." Nin returned to Paris in May 1935, and Miller followed
in October and began work on Tropic of Capricorn
After his travels in Europe and America, Miller moved to California in 1942. Although
his books were selling well in Europe, he was not receiving his royalties because
the war. But his reputation as a watercolor painter was becoming established;
1943, he earned $1400 from sales of his paintings.
In March 1943, he moved to Big Sur and re-established contact with Janina Martha
Lepska, a graduate student whom he had met earlier in New York. Lepska traveled
New Haven, Connecticut, to California with Miller, and the two married en route
Denver in December 1944. Their daughter, Valentine, was born in November 1945,
son, Henry Tony, in 1948.
Lepska left Miller in June 1951, and they divorced in November 1952. In April 1952,
Eve McClure, a fan, moved in with him. In December 1952 Miller and McClure traveled
in Europe for seven months, and they married at the end of 1953. In 1960 Miller
Tropic of Cancer was legally published in the United
States in 1961, and Miller's fame became widespread. As a result of his notoriety,
Miller's home in Big Sur was overrun with undesirable types, causing Miller to
in September 1962 for the Pacific Palisades, where he lived for the rest of his
life. Around this time he began creating a large number of watercolors, which
donated to non-profit organizations.
In February 1966, Miller met Hiroko Tokuda ("Hoki"), a pianist at a Hollywood bar,
who had recently moved to California from Japan. They married in September 1967,
Tokuda left him in May 1970, and they divorced in 1977. By that time Miller required
the use of a walker, and had to rely on assistance from others as his health
declined. He died June 7, 1980.