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Dora Maar

French Photographer and Painter

Dora Maar Photo

Born: November 22, 1907 - Tours, France

Died: July 16, 1997 - Paris, France

"All [Picasso's] portraits of me are lies. They're all Picassos. Not one is Dora Maar."

Summary of Dora Maar

As a talented photographer, Maar made work that developed quickly from acute poetic street realism to otherworldly Surrealist manipulations. She was particularly apt at making work out of her own hidden and dizzying emotional interior - as well as the desire to retreat from it. Mournfully, Maar abandoned photography due to Pablo Picasso's insistence that every photographer was merely a painter waiting to be released. Caught in love with this colossal and powerful personality between the years of 1935-45, Maar became the muse for others as well as a practicing artist herself. Upon her separation from Picasso, Maar experienced a nervous breakdown and recovered with the help of the famous psychiatrist, Jaques Lacan. In later life, she moved from Paris to rural Provence and painted mainly abstract landscapes and melancholy still lifes. She became a recluse and a devout Catholic. Despite her achievements, following their destructive relationship, Maar lived partially in the shadow of Picasso's words; she never returned to photography, the medium through which her exquisite and unusual character shines so brightly.

Key Ideas

Whilst making her most 'surrealist' photographs, Maar examines similar and recurring motifs to other members of the group, for example hair, shells, spirals, and shadows. However, her images are altogether more disconcerting, macabre, and foreboding than those of her colleagues and as such highlight that Maar was not only connected to André Breton but was also a close friend of the dissent figure, George Batailles. With a foot in both camps, she stood literally at the center of the movement sweeping the art world of the time.
Indeed, she was one of the women closest to the Surrealists, involved in many early collaborative drawings and collages, and beloved for her imagination. As such, when Breton opened a gallery on the rue de Seine in 1937 called 'Gravida', the 'd' stood for Dora, acknowledging her as one of a handful of the group's most treasured sources of inspiration.
Maar was an invaluable documenter of the lives of fellow artists. She famously photographed Picasso whilst he completed the important large-scale painting Guernica (1937), and like Lee Miller, made memorable portraits of other female Surrealists. Whilst Miller flooded her pictures of Nusch Eluard and Leonor Fini with light depicting her friends as idealists, Maar surrounded the same women in darkness focusing more on their defiant and seductive characteristics; in turn, exposing more uneasy aspects of the human unconscious.
In Picasso's famous series of portraits of Maar, The Weeping Woman, she is always depicted with two faces and made up of a collection of sharp and violent lines. The images epitomize anxiety in love, and the potential harm caused by a destructive romantic relationship. Maar's career in its later stages was unfortunately tainted due to this tumultuous affair and as such stands as a warning for others.
Dora Maar Photo

Dora Maar was born Henrietta Theodora Markovitch on November 22, 1907 in Tours, France. Her father was Croatian and became an architect; her mother was French and brought up in the Catholic faith. Maar spent most of her childhood in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where her father worked on a number of projects. The artist recalls her childhood as being a relatively lonely time. She read widely in English, and spoke French and Spanish fluently. She was left-handed but her parents and teachers forced her to write, eat, and conduct day-to-day affairs with her right; nevertheless, she always painted and drew with her left hand.

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