French surrealist photographer

Dora Maar


Dora Maar ( 1907 – 1997) was a French photographer, poet and painter. Maar is usually remembered as the sultry model and muse whose features were immortalised in Picasso’s Weeping Woman series. Those who knew Maar have painted a picture of a stunningly beautiful woman with an acute intelligence and mercurial temperament matched by the flamboyance of her dress.

 Dora Maar was born Henriette Theodora Marković in Paris, France.  Dora grew up in Argentina.  In 1927 at the age of 20, she began studying painting in Paris, but shortly after switched to photography at the “Ecole des Photographie de la Ville de Paris.”

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.  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.

Maar met Picasso in January in Paris, when she was 29 years old and he 54.She was the subject of many paintings by Picasso and he appeared in many of her works as well. In 1943 Maar suffered depression and a nervous breakdown, following the final, painful break up of a ten-year relationship with Picasso. She recovered after receiving psychiatric treatment from her friend Jacques Lacan, before re-entering the cultural life of Paris as a proud and independent woman. Her career as a photographer ended abruptly when Picasso made light of her talent, but she continued to paint, write poetry and latterly take or rework photographs until the last two years of her life. Dora Maar, who became a devout Catholic and recluse, died in 1997 aged 89. She is reported to have said before her death ‘After Picasso only God’.

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