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man ray

leonora carrington
nusch eluard
frida kahlo
leonor fini
jacqueline lamba breton
rita kernn larsen
lee miller
meret oppenheim
remedios varo

frank auerbach
francis bacon
joseph beuys
jean cocteau
salvador dali
jasper johns
anselm kiefer
jean marais
egon schiele
andy warhol

Pablo Picasso
Portrait of Dora Maar


    French photographer and painter.
    Born 1909 in Tours.
    Died 1997.

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Father was Croatian from Karlovac, North Croatia, a famous architect who worked in South America. French mother. Raised in Argentina.

Studied painting in Paris at the Ecole d'Art Decoratif, Academic de Passy, Academic Julien, and with Andre Lhote.

Gave up painting for photography during the mid 1930s; associated with the Surrealists between 1934 and 1937.

Picasso met her in January 1936 at the terrace of the café "Les Deux Magots" in Saint-Germain- des Prés. Attracted by her black eyes and jet-black hair, he invested his friend, the famous poet Paul Eluard, to introduce him to this beautiful woman.

Their relationship was cemented a few weeks later when Picasso invited her in his flat of the rue de la Boetie in March 1936 and its duration (nearly nine years) coincided with the dark period spanning the years of the war of Spain and the Second World war.

She thus became the rival of the blonde Marie-Thérèse Walter who had given a daughter named Maya to Picasso. Contrary to the other women whom he had known, Maar was an artist who had a certain independence of mind but she eventually came to suffer from this relationship after she discovered she was sterile. Picasso, who was then aged 50, was charmed by this beautiful dark-haired girl and produced during their relationship of many sketches, watercolours and paintings which testify today of their moments of happiness.

She had however to yield to Picasso's whims as he had not given up Marie-Thérèse Walter. He went thus from one to another according to events and his mood. In Paris, still occupied by the Germans, he left her as a good-bye gift in April 1944 a drawing of 1915 representing Max Jacob his close friend who had just died in the transit camp of Drancy fater his arrest by the Nazis.

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First photography exhibition at the Galerie de Beaune, Paris, in 1937.

One-woman exhibitions of painting in Paris at Jeanne Bucher (1943) and Pierre Loeb (1945).

After a period of semimonastic life devoted to mystical experience, began exhibiting her paintings again during the 1950s.

Towards the end of her life, renounced her earlier association with Surrealism and lived in Menerbes (Vaucluse).

Exhibitions: Tenerife (1935), London (1936), New York (1937), Tokyo (1937), Amsterdam (1938).


She moved in Surrealist circles between 1934 and 1937. Lee Miller photographed that now famous image of her with Picasso in Mougins in 1937. She became close friends with Jacqueline Lamba, Eluard and Man Ray. Though she had originally trained as a painter she was unsure of her talent and gave up for a time, thankfully producing that small but brilliantly disquieting group of photographs that I for one can never forget. So powerful were they that severel were included in Surrealist exhibitions

Though she did paint again she came to renounce Surrealism and later led a semimonastic life.

During her time with Picasso she was known to be prone to bouts of despair and self-criticism but was always dignified and reserved.


In 1937, Andre Breton took another step towards mythologizing the image of woman as muse. Suffering financially after an offer of a teaching position on which he depended for support for his wife and daughter fell through, he decided to opena Surrealist gallery on the rue de Seine. The gallery was called Gradiva (below) and above its glass doors, designed by Marcel Duchamp as the silhouette of a conjoined man and woman, the name Gradiva was spelt out about those of certain other Surrealist women of the decade: Gisele, Rosine, Alice, Dora, Ines, and Violette. The word comme ("as in") links the names of Alice Paalen, Dora Maar, Violette Nozieres, and others with that of Gradiva. The name Gradiva appears in paintings by Dali and Masson and writings by Breton and others.

Between 1930 and 1937 images of woman as muse in Surrealism coalesced into the mythical image of Gradiva. Drawn from Wilhelm Jensen's novel Gradiva: A Pompeiian Fantsy and from Freud's subsequent analysis of the work, the figure of Gradiva was used by Breton, Masson, Dali, Eluard, and others as a means of symbolically demonstrating the dynamism of repressed erotic desire and as a myth of metamorphosis. The mythicimages of Gradiva subsumed the lives of real women associated with the Surrealists. "Gala is Trinity," Dali said. "She is Gradiva the woman who advances. She is, according to Paul Eluard, 'the woman whose glance pierces walls.'"

Source: Women Artists and the Surrealist Movement

Gradiva Gallery
The Surrealist gallery Gradiva, opened by Breton in 1937
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Nusch Eluard
Dora Maar, Nusch Eluard, Pablo Picasso, Paul Eluard, Juan Les Pins, 1937.
Photo: Eileen Agar (Low Quality Scan)
More info: Women Artists and the Surrealist Movement
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Dora Maar
Pere Ubu, c. 1936.
Photo: Dora Maar. (Low Quality Scan)

Forget that Dora Maar even knew Picasso for a moment. Forget his many paintings of her. Foreget she was even in the same postcode as him. Just forget forget forget! Instead think of her body of work. It is simply astonishing in its own right. It's as disquietening as anything her esteemed surrealist male counterparts ever produced. Take Pere Ubu for example. The evocation of the pear-shaped, breast-plated Ubu in the monstrous reality of a baby armadillo is simply repulsive. Shockingly surreal. Surreally brilliant.

I would venture her small group of hallucinatory photographs are among the most provocative of the 20th century and if you have any interest in this group of work then Dora Maar: Fotógrafa is recommended reading. The only problem with the book is you know the CDs which carry a 'Parental Advisory' label on the front because of bad language? Well, this should carry a 'Genius At Work' alert.

More info: Women Artists and the Surrealist Movement
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dora maar book covers - smartphone page
Dora Maar Book Covers - Smartphone Page

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Dora Maar 14x16 Framed Art Print by Pablo Picasso

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  • picasso's weeping woman: the life and art of dora maar
    mary ann caws
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