Best known for his reimaginings of vintage Penguin book jackets, British artist Harland Miller’s paintings are imbued with his personal, unique brand of dark humour. Buy and sell original prints and editions by leading artist Miller. We can value your print for free, with zero obligation to sell and offer market advice on any work in Miller's portfolio.
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Writer and painter Harland Miller is best known for his recreations of Penguin book jackets and for his mischievous, often dark, sense of humour. Characterised by an undercurrents of satire and self-depreciation, Miller’s art explores the relationship between word and image to comment on the frequent disconnect between representation and reality.
Miller was born on 11 March 1964 in North Yorkshire. His father bought and collected books, hoping to find a rare first edition among old car manuals and magazines ('he never did,' said Miller). But books would become a recurring theme in Miller’s life: 'I suppose I experienced at that young age high culture and low culture together before I could make any difference between them,' the artist later said. Famed for his prints and paintings, Miller began his career as a writer, publishing two novels in 2000. Now, his fictional Penguin covers give him the 'pleasure to imagine a book I had already written and then painting it'.
Miller's parodies of classic Penguin book covers like Fuck Art Let's Dance, combine Pop Art motifs with the brushstrokes of Abstract Expressionism to create a new work that is simultaneously humorous and nostalgic, on a monumental scale. The inspiration for the series came as the artist found a box of old Penguin books in a second-hand bookshop in Paris. It was an 'eureka moment'. Now, the instantly recognisable covers are a vehicle for Miller’s satirical messages and witty puns.
Since then, Miller’s work has been everywhere – a testament to his international success. Following a Writer in Residence position at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in Boston in 2002, Miller curated his first major group exhibition, ‘You Dig The Tunnel, I’ll Hide The Soil,’ in 2008 for White Cube, London, featuring works by Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst and Jake and Dinos Chapman.
More exhibitions quickly followed. In 2009, Miller had a solo exhibition at the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, titled ‘Don’t Let The Bastards Cheer You Up’. His first exhibition in Amsterdam took place in 2010: ‘I’ll Never Forget What I Can’t Remember’ at Reflex Amsterdam. In 2016, Miller had his first exhibition in Berlin, ‘Tonight We Make History (P.S. I Can’t Be There)’, then three years later saw his first solo exhibition in Hong Kong. In 2020 Miller held a solo exhibition at York Art Gallery. ‘York, So Good They Named It Once’, centred around Miller’s childhood memories of Yorkshire. 'I think the majority of people have a love-hate relationship with their hometown… and I think I do too, but just without the hate,' said the artist.
Image © Christie's / Murder - We've All Done it © Harland Miller 2011
In keeping with Miller’s Penguin Classics dust jacket series, Murder - We’ve All Done it incorporates the artist’s typical inspiration in a special edition marble-effect format. Naturally, the witty text draws us in, with this title being used multiple times across the artist’s oeuvre, and this specific work sold for £325,000 at Christie’s London on October 16th 2021.
Image © Sotheby's / Too Cool to die © Harland Miller 2004
A perfect example of Miller’s irreverent parodies of the Penguin Classic book covers, Too Cool To Die recently sold for £277,200 at Sotheby’s London on the 3rd March 2022. More than just witty wordplay, this large-scale piece demonstrates the depth of personal connection Miller has to the vintage Penguin jackets that have shaped his career - we see the green tinted edges of the painting suggesting the novel’s wear and age. The level of depth and painterly attention given to the rich orange background here is also indicative of the influence that artists such as Mark Rothko have had on his work.
Incurable Romantic © Harland Miller 2007
One for those looking for fast love – Incurable Romantic Seeks Dirty Filthy Whore, from the personal collection of singer George Michael, set a new auction record for Miller when it was auctioned at Christie’s in London on 14 March 2019. Selling for £237,500, it more than tripled the previous record of £75,000 set by Sotheby’s in 2015. The painting sold after just two minutes of intense bidding in the saleroom and over the telephones, eventually achieving almost eight times its low estimate.
Incurable Romantic is quickly becoming one of Miller’s most popular artworks with collectors. Inspired by the lonely hearts adverts in newspapers, the artist has made many versions of this piece over the years, reworking the title onto different styles of Penguin covers. The record-breaking painting from George Michael’s collection was created in 2007 – the singer bought it in the same year and kept it in his collection for the rest of his life.
Incurable Romantic © Harland Miller 2007