Dora Maar

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Dora Maar
Dora Maar
Dora Maar
Born November 22, 1907
Tours, France
Died July 16, 1997(1997-07-16) (aged 89)
Paris, France
Known for Former partner of Pablo Picasso, subject of The Weeping Woman

Dora Maar (November 22, 1907 – July 16, 1997) was a French photographer, poet and painter.


She was born Henriette Theodora Marković in Croatia. Her father, Josip Marković, was a Croatian architect, famous for his work in South America; her mother, Julie Voisin, was from a Catholic family from Touraine, France.[1] Dora grew up in Argentina.

Before meeting Picasso, Maar was already known as a photographer. She also painted. She met Picasso in January 1936 on the terrace of the café Les Deux Magots in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Paris, when she was 28 years old and he 54. The famous poet Paul Éluard, who was with Picasso, had to introduce them. Picasso was attracted by her beauty and self-mutilation (she cut her fingers and table playing "the knife game"; he got her bloody gloves and exhibited them on a shelf in his apartment). She spoke Spanish fluently, so Picasso was even more fascinated. Their relationship lasted nearly nine years.

Maar became the rival of Picasso's blonde mistress, Marie-Thérèse Walter, who had a newborn daughter with Picasso, named Maya. Picasso often painted beautiful, sad Dora, who suffered because she was sterile, and called her his "private muse." For him she was the "woman in tears" in many aspects. During their love affair, she suffered from his moods, and hated that in 1943 he had found a new lover, Françoise Gilot. Picasso and Paul Éluard sent Dora to their friend, the psychiatrist Jacques Lacan, who treated her with psychoanalysis.

She made herself better known in the art world with her photographs of the successive stages of the completion of Guernica, which Picasso painted in his workshop on the rue des Grands Augustins, and other photographic portraits of Picasso. Together, she and Picasso studied printing with Man Ray.

Maar kept her paintings for herself until her death in 1997. They were souvenirs of her extraordinary love affair, which made her famous forever. In Paris, still occupied by the Germans, Picasso left to her a drawing from 1915 as a goodbye gift in April 1944; it represents Max Jacob, his close friend who had just died in the transit camp of Drancy after his arrest by the Nazis. He also left to her some still lifes and a house at Ménerbes in Provence.

After Picasso[edit]

After her long relationship with Picasso ended, Maar struggled to regain her emotional footing. This was complicated by the sudden death of her best friend, Nusch Éluard, wife of the poet Paul, in 1946. Likewise, her mother had also died unexpectedly in 1941, leaving Maar without family or long-time close friends.

But eventually she returned to her previous social circle, which included famous society hostesses and art patrons such as Marie-Laure de Noailles and Lise Deharme. She also found solace in Roman Catholicism. The author Mary Ann Caws quotes Maar as saying, "After Picasso, God." She spent her last years living between Paris and Provence in the house Picasso had given her.

Although she had other male friends in her life, such as the gay writer James Lord, a close friend who lived with her in the house in Provence in the 1950s, no one replaced Picasso for her.

Maar's poetry is notable for its themes of near-religious meditation. Caws in her 2000 book on Maar quotes several pieces such as one entitled "5 November", thought to have been written in 1970:

Pure as a lake boredom

I hear its harmony
In the vast cold room
The nuance of light seems eternal
All is simple I admire
the full totality of objects.

Others poems were more openly religious:

The soul that still yesterday wept is quiet -- it's exile suspended

a country without art only nature
Memory magnolia pure so far off

I am blind
and made from a bit of earth
But your gaze never leaves me
And your angel keeps me.

By the 1980s, she had few friends left, but still wrote poetry and returned to photography. An exhibition of her paintings in 1990 at the Marcel Fleiss gallery was a success, as was another in Valencia, Spain in 1995, just two years before her death. She died at 89 years of age in Paris on July 16, 1997. She is buried with her family at Clamart Cemetery in Hauts de Seine.

Maar's first photography exhibition was at the Galerie de Beaune in Paris, in 1937. She had one-woman exhibitions of painting in Paris at Jeanne Bucher (1943) and Pierre Loeb (1945).

After a period of semi-monastic life devoted to mystical experience, Maar began exhibiting her paintings again during the 1950s. Towards the end of her life, she renounced her earlier association with Surrealism, albeit staying involved in the art world through some exchanges with upcoming artists, as she did with Patrice Stellest while he defined the principles of the Trans Nature Art movement.

Photographic career[edit]

Maar supported herself in the 1920s and 1930s as a commercial photographer with portraits and advertisements, and pursued street photography and avant-garde experimentation in her spare time. She was prominent in Parisian art and photography circles.

In her photographs, Maar imbued blind beggars and impoverished children with unusual dignity; made distinctively austere Surrealist collages, montages and setup images (a pair of shoes seemingly walking on a beach); and created two haunting works using the ceiling of a cathedral, turned upside down.

She got on film what might be called street Surrealism: a discarded doll, hanging from a nail on a wood fence; a group of tussling children with an extra pair of legs. Her photographic work has a distinctive formal clarity and emotional directness.

Posthumous events[edit]

On 3 May 2006, one of Picasso's portraits of her, Dora Maar au Chat ("Dora Maar with Cat") was auctioned at Sotheby's at a closing price of $95,216,000 (USD), making it the world's second most expensive painting ever sold at auction [1]. The winning bidder chose to remain anonymous; however, it was later revealed that he was bidding on behalf of a Russian buyer.

Two Picasso art works depicting Maar were stolen in France in 1999. First, an oil on canvas, "Dora Maar", was stolen from a boat on the French Riviera. The boat's crew was arrested and Lloyds offered a €540,000 Euro reward. The painting is currently registered with the FBI's National Stolen Art File[2][dead link]. The second stolen "Dora Maar" is a bronze sculpture representing her face. It was taken from a public square in Paris on 1 April 1999.

Currently, The Brown Foundation Fellows Program based in Dora Maar's former home in Ménerbes, France, provides residencies of one to three months for mid-career professionals in the arts and humanities to concentrate on their fields of expertise.


Further reading[edit]

  • (In Croatian) Mladen Urem. Janko Polić Kamov, Dora Maar i hrvatska avangarda (Janko Polić Kamov, Dora Maar and Croatian Avantgarde). 2006 Rijeka, Croatia. Rival publishing. ISBN 953-6700-06-9
  • Mary Ann Caws. Dora Maar with & without Picasso. 2000 London. ISBN 0-500-51009-1
  • James Lord. Picasso and Dora: A memoir. 1997 New York. ISBN 0-7538-0249-X
  • (In French) Alicia Dujovne Ortiz. Dora Maar : prisonnière du regard. 2003 Paris : Bernard Grasset. 358 p. ISBN 2-246-60791-4
  • Mary Ann Caws. Picasso's Weeping Woman The Life and Art of Dora Maar, Bulfinch, 2000, ISBN 0-8212-2693-2
  • Donald Goddard. Dora Maar: Photographer, Art Review, New York Art World, 2004.[3]
  • Jenkins, Cecil (2014). Dora versus Picasso. Matador. ISBN 978-1783062-577.  (a fictional account of Maar's relationship with Picasso)

External links[edit]