Dora Maar

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Dora Maar
Dora Maar.gif
Photographic portrait of Dora Maar attributed to Man Ray
Born22 November 1907
Died16 July 1997(1997-07-16) (aged 89)
Paris, France
EducationSchool of photography,
École des Beaux-Arts,
Académie Julian
Known forPhotography, Painting

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


Henriette Theodora Markovitch was the only daughter of Joseph Markovitch (1875–1969), a Croatian architect who studied in Zagreb, Vienna, and then Paris where he settled in 1896, and of his spouse, Catholic-raised Louise-Julie Voisin (1877–1942), originally from Cognac, France.

In 1910, the family left for Buenos Aires where the father obtained several commissions including for the embassy of Austria-Hungary; His achievements earned him the honor of being decorated by Emperor Francis Joseph I, even though he was "the only architect who did not make a fortune in Buenos Aires. "

In 1926, the family returned to Paris. Dora Maar, a pseudonym she chose, took courses at the Central Union of Decorative Arts and the School of Photography. She also enrolled at the École des Beaux-Arts and the Académie Julian[2] which had the advantage of offering the same instruction to women as to men. Dora Maar frequented André Lhote's workshop where she met Henri Cartier-Bresson.

While studying at the École des Beaux-Arts, Maar met fellow female surrealist Jacqueline Lamba. About her, Maar said, 'I was closely linked with Jacqueline. She asked me, “where are those famous surrealists?" and I told her about cafe de la Place Blanche.' Jacqueline then began to frequent the cafe where she would eventually meet André Breton, whom she would later marry.[3]

When the workshop ceased its activities, Dora Maar left Paris, alone, for Barcelona and then London, where she photographed the effects of the economic depression following the Wall Street Crash of 1929 in the United States. On her return, and with the help of her father, she opened another workshop at 29 rue d'Astorg, (8th arrondissement of Paris).[4]

In 1935 she was introduced to Pablo Picasso and she became his companion and his muse.[5] She took pictures in his studio at the Grands Augustins and tracked the latter stages of his work, Guernica.[5] She later acted as a model for his piece titled Monument à Apollinaire,[5] a tribute to the late poet Guillaume Apollinaire.

Dora Maar the photographer[edit]

Maar's earliest surviving photographs were taken in the early 1920s with a Rolleiflex camera while on a cargo ship going to the Cape Verde Islands.[3]

At the beginning of 1930, she set up a photography studio on rue Campagne-Première (14th arrondissement of Paris) with Pierre Kéfer, photographer, and decorator for Jean Epstein's 1928 film, The Fall of the House of Usher. In the studio, Maar and Kefer worked together mostly on commercial photography for advertisements and fashion magazines.[3] Her father assisted with her finances in this period of her life as she was establishing herself while trying to earn a living.[6]

She met the photographer Brassaï with whom she shared the darkroom in the studio. Brassai once said that she had, “bright eyes and an attentive gaze, a disturbing stare at times.”[3]

During this time working in advertising and fashion photography, the influence of Surrealism could occasionally be seen in her work. She felt that art should represent the content of reality through links with intuitions or ideas, rather than visually reproduce the natural.[6] Dora Maar also met Louis-Victor Emmanuel Sougez, a photographer working for advertising, archeology and artistic director of the newspaper L'Illustration, whom she considered a mentor.

In 1932, she had an affair with the filmmaker Louis Chavance.
Dora Maar frequented the October group, formed around Jacques Prévert and Max Morise after their break from surrealism.

Maar had her first publication in the magazine Art et Métiers Graphiques in 1932.[7]

Her first solo exhibition was held at the Galerie Vanderberg in Paris.[8]

Surrealist concepts and interests often aligned with the ideas of the political left of the time and so Maar became very politically active at this point in her life.[6] After the fascist demonstrations of 6 February 1934, in Paris along with René Lefeuvre, Jacques Soustelle, supported by Simone Weil and Georges Bataille, she signed the tract "Appeal to the struggle" written at the initiative of André Breton. Much of her work is highly influenced by leftist politics of the time, often depicting those who had been thrown into poverty by the depression. She was part of an ultra-leftist association called “Masses,” where she first met Georges Bataille,[3] an anti-fascist organization called "The Union of Intellectuals Against Fascism"[9] and a radical collective of left-wing actors and writers called October.[3]

She also was involved in many Surrealist groups and often participated in demonstrations, convocations, and cafe conversations. She signed many manifestos including one titled 'when surrealists were right' in August 1935 which concerned the Congress of Paris, which had been held in March of that year.[3]

In 1935 she took a photo of fashion illustrator and designer Christian Berard that was described by writer and critic Michael Kimmelman as, “wry and mischievous with only his head perceived above the fountain as if he were john the baptist on a silver platter.”[3]

Relationship with Pablo Picasso[edit]

At the end of 1935, Dora Maar was hired as a set photographer on the Jean Renoir film The Crime of Monsieur Lange. On this occasion Paul Eluard introduced her to Pablo Picasso.[10] Their liaison would last nearly nine years, during which time Picasso did not end his relationship with Marie-Thérèse Walter, mother of his daughter Maya.

Dora Maar photographed the successive stages of the creation of Guernica,[11] painted by Picasso in his studio in the rue des Grands-Augustins from May to June 1937; Picasso used these photographs in his creative process. She is Picasso’s principal model, who often represents her in tears. She herself produced several self-portraits entitled: La Femme qui pleure – The Weeping Woman.[12]

It is, however, the gelatin silver works of the surrealist period that remain the most sought after by amateurs: Portrait of Ubu (1936), 29 rue d'Astorg, black and white, collages, photomontages or superimpositions.[13][14][15] The photograph represents the central character in a popular series of plays by Alfred Jarry called Ubu Roi. The work was first shown at the Exposition Surréaliste d’objets at the Galerie Charles Ratton in Paris and at the International Surrealist Exhibition in London in 1936.[16] She also participated in Participates in Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism, at the MoMA in New York the same year.[17]

Maar met Picasso in 1936 at the Cafe des Deux Magots. The story of their first encounter was told by the writer Jean-Paul Crespelle, "the young women serious face, lit up by pale blue eyes which looked all the paler because of her thick eyebrows; a sensitive uneasy face, with light and shade passing alternately over it. She kept driving a small pointed pen-knife between her fingers into the wood of the table. Sometimes she missed and a drop of blood appeared between the roses embroidered on her black gloves... Picasso would ask Dora to give him the gloves and would lock them up in the showcase he kept for his mementos."[3]

Her liaison with Picasso, who physically abused her and made her fight Marie-Therese Walter for his love,[18] ended in 1943, although they met again episodically until 1946. Thus, on 19 March 1944, she played the role of Fat Anguish in the reading, at the home of Michel Leiris, of Picasso' first play, Desire Caught by the Tail, led by Albert Camus. In 1944, through the intermediary of Paul Éluard, Dora Maar met Jacques Lacan, who took care of her nervous breakdown by administering her electroshocks,[19] which were forbidden at the time. Picasso bought her a house in Ménerbes, Vaucluse, where she retired and lived alone. She turned to the Catholic religion, met the painter Nicolas de Staël (who lived in the same village), and turned to abstract painting.[20]

Dora Maar the painter[edit]

The painted works of Dora Maar remained unrecognized until their posthumous sale, organized in 1999, which made the public and professionals discover a very personal production that had never left her studio.

Dora Maar abandoned photography for painting alongside leaving Picasso and his influence, or rather the crushing presence of the master, who had imposed on her a cubistic style. Pushed by Picasso to express herself in this style, one can wonder about Picasso's desire to remove his lover from the domain where she excelled, and to constrain her in a painting style which he had long mastered.

It is from the painful separation of Picasso that Dora Maar truly became a painter. Tragic figurative works, such as the Portrait of Eluard, or Self-Portrait to The Child of 1946, translate, in dark tones, the pain of post-war years.

After years of struggling with depression,[21] Dora Maar confined herself within her own memories. It is between the 1960s and 70s that there was the beginning of a respite when she experimented with abstract formats in shimmering colors. It was in the 1980s, though that the painter expressed herself fully in her many paintings of the Luberon region. Paintings of the landscapes around her house in Ménerbes,[22] showed locations dominated by wind and clouds, strongly revealing the struggle of an artist with the ghosts of her past.[23]


Dora Maar spent her last years in her apartment in Rue de Savoie, in the Left Bank of Paris. She died on July 16, 1997, at 89 years old.[24] She was buried in the Bois-Tardieu cemetery in Clamart.[25]


Although Maar is mostly remembered as one of Picasso's lovers,[26] there have been many recent exhibits presenting her as an artist in her own right, including exhibitions at the Haus der Kunst, Munich, 13 October 2001 – 6 January 2002; the Centre de la Vieille Charité, Marseille, 20 January – 4 May 2002; the Centre Cultural Tecla Sala, Barcelona, 15 May – 15 July 2002; and the Centre Pompidou, Paris, 5 June 2019 – 29 July 2019.[27]


In popular culture[edit]

Maar is played by Julianne Moore in the 1996 film Surviving Picasso, by Samantha Colley in the 2018 season of Genius, which focuses on the life and art of Picasso and by Denitza Zafirova in the 2019 production of Aslant Theatre's MUSE, which focuses on Maar's storyline and perspective of her relationship with Picasso.


  • Louise Baring: Dora Maar: Paris in the Time of Man Ray, Jean Cocteau, and Picasso, Rizzoli, 2017
  • Mary Ann Caws: Dora Maar With And Without Picasso: A Biography, Thames & Hudson[29]
  • Mary Ann Caws, Les vies de Dora Maar : Bataille, Picasso et les surréalistes, Paris, Thames & Hudson, 2000, 224 p. (ISBN 2878111850)
  • Georgiana Colvile, Scandaleusement d'elles : trente-quatre femmes surréalistes, Paris, J.-M. Place, 1999 (ISBN 2858934967), p. 179 à 185
  • James Lord, Picasso and Dora : a personal memoir, 1993
  • Judi Freeman: Picasso and the weeping women : the years of Marie-Thérèse Walter & Dora Maar
  • Anne Baldassari: Picasso : love and war, 1935–1945
  • Zoé Valdés : The weeping woman : a novel, 2013
  • Alicia Dujovne Ortiz: Dora Maar prisonnière du regard, Le Livre de Poche, 2005. ISBN 978-2253114727
  • Olivia Lahs-Gonzales: Defining eye : women photographers of the 20th century : selections from the Helen Kornblum collection


  1. ^ "Maar, Dora : Benezit Dictionary of Artists - oi". doi:10.1093/benz/9780199773787.article.b00113080.
  2. ^ "Maar, Dora : Oxford Art Online - oi". doi:10.1093/gao/9781884446054.article.t2021794.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Caws, Mary Ann (2000). Picasso's Weeping Woman : The Life and Art of Dora Maar. Boston: Little, Brown, and Co. ISBN 9780821226933.
  4. ^ Exhibit-E. "Dora Maar - Artists - Hanina Fine Arts".
  5. ^ a b c Durozoi, Gerard (2002). History of the Surrealist Movement. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 680. ISBN 0-226-17412-3.
  6. ^ a b c Laura Felleman Fattal (2018-06-01). Dora Maar: Contextualizing Picasso’s Muse. Women in Judaism: A Multidisciplinary e-Journal. OCLC 1042193465.
  7. ^ "Galeria Mayoral – Founded in Barcelona in 1989, Mayoral is an art gallery specialised in modern and post-war art". (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 30 October 2012. Retrieved 11 March 2011.
  8. ^ "Dora Maar - oi". doi:10.1093/oi/authority.20110803100121361.
  9. ^ Riding, Alan (26 July 1997). "Dora Maar, a Muse of Picasso, Is Dead at 89". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  10. ^ Morris, Roderick Conway (18 June 2014). "A Palatial Setting for Surreal Imagery in Venice" – via
  11. ^ "Dora Maar (French, 1907 - 1997) (Getty Museum)". The J. Paul Getty in Los Angeles.
  12. ^ Riding, Alan (10 September 1998). "Picasso's 'Weeping' Dora; Lover's Collection Helps Fill In the Portrait" – via
  13. ^ Smith, Roberta (18 June 2004). "ART IN REVIEW; 'Dora Maar: Photographer'" – via
  14. ^ "Tumblr".
  15. ^ (fr)Arago, Dora Maar
  16. ^ Dillon, Brian,The Voraciousness and Oddity of Dora Maar’s Pictures, The New Yorker, May 21, 2019, with many images
  17. ^ "Galeria Mayoral – Founded in Barcelona in 1989, Mayoral is an art gallery specialised in modern and post-war art". (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 2017-03-20. Retrieved 2017-03-11.
  18. ^ Doyle, Sady (2014-01-23). "Bertolucci Wasn't the First Man to Abuse a Woman and Call It Art and He Won't Be the Last". Retrieved 2016-12-09.
  19. ^ " Dora Maar". Archived from the original on 2016-11-28. Retrieved 2016-11-27.
  20. ^ Mary Ann Caws (2008). The Yale anthology of twentieth-century French poetry. Yale University Press. ISBN 9780300143188. OCLC 223869345.
  21. ^ "Dora Maar - Sacred Art Pilgrim Collection: Artists - Sacred Art Pilgrim".
  22. ^ "Dora Maar House - Alliance of Artists Communities".
  23. ^ Riding, Alan (26 July 1997). "Dora Maar, a Muse of Picasso, Is Dead at 89" – via
  24. ^ "Dora Maar ( 1907 - 1997 )".
  25. ^ (fr) Le, Harry Bellet, "Marseille rend justice aux talents de Dora Maar", 14.04.2002 (exert)
  26. ^ Chau, Adrienne (2017-01-01). "The Phallic Woman: A Reexamination of the Problematics of Women and Surrealism". Senior Projects Spring 2017.
  27. ^ McCully, Marilyn. "The Surreal Life of Dora Maar". The New York Review of Books. Retrieved 2017-03-11.
  28. ^ Divento exhibitions [1]
  29. ^ Caws, Mary Ann (6 October 2000). "Edited extract on Picasso's muse Dora Maar" – via

Content in this edit is translated from the existing French Wikipedia article at fr:Dora Maar; see its history for attribution.

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