Dora Maar (1907-1997), too often remembered for simply being the muse and lover of Picasso, was a visual artist known for her career in fashion photography and her work as painter.
The Centre Pompidou, in collaboration with London’s Tate Modern gallery and the Los Angeles Getty Museum has organized the biggest monographic exhibition of Dora Maar's photographs and paintings through a collection of more than five hundred art pieces and documents. The exhibition has also received the exceptional support of the national Museum of Picasso in Paris.
Henriette Theodora Markovitch, the birth name of Dora Maar, was a Parisian woman of multiple talents, daughter of a Croatian architect and a French woman. She grew up in Buenos Aires, because of her father's profession, and moved to Paris in 1926 where she studied fine art and photography in an audiovisual and cinema school. She published her first image at 23 years old, in 1930. The following year she got her first, important job : she had to realize some illustrations for a book about Mont Saint-Michel. In the same period she opened her own atelier in Neuilly sur Seine together with the cinema stage designer Pierre Kéfer. After that, everything happened quickly : she had requests for portraits, fashion shots, advertising. Among her clients there were Lanvin, Schiaparelli, and Chanel to name a few. Her photographs were published in dozens of magazines. Like many photographers in the 30’s, she also did nude photography to increase her salary, an sector that paid quite well.
The first part of the exhibition is dedicated to her commercial work, through a slide show of photographs conceived in a classical way, but still with a surrealistic touch. Sometimes she used to superpose negatives, creating photo montages in the darkroom.
Politically very engaged, in 1933 she started to work on documentary and street photography projects and she participated in a group exhibition which reunited antifascist intellectuals and artists of that time.
Dora Maar always looked for the weird, uncommon side of things both in the streets and daily life. She also used to combine old images she found in flea markets with her own pictures.
The photographer met Picasso in 1935, at that time she was already a photographer with a solid, independent career. Their relationship lasted 8 years in which Dora modeled for several works of the painter including The Crying Woman and Guernica.
Their passionate relationship was also intense on an artistic level : they mutually helped each other in their work and Picasso encouraged Dora to went back to painting. In 1943 Picasso met François Gillot and broke their relationship. Two years after Dora Maar had serious depression, and found some comfort in catholic religion and then meditation.
She abandoned photography to fully came back to painting untill the end of her life. She painted geometric still life and abstract landscapes. During the 80’s she returned to mixing painting and photography again, manipulating negatives that she scratched before. Untill the end of her life at 80 years old she never stopped being in constant research and experimentation.