Dora Maar 1907-1997 Surrealist photographer who freaked out Picasso’s brushes.

https://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/dora-maar

BY Susana Valcarcel

Maar belonged to a generation of women photographers eager to seize the professional opportunities created by the interwar boom in advertising and the illustrates press.She took assignments in fashion and advertising, travelled to document social conditions and made wildly inventive images that came to occupy an important place in surrealism. Maar’s approach and preferred themes- the erotic, sleep, eyes and the sea- aligned perfectly with surrealist ideas. In this time, Europe was in the worst economic depression of modern times. It was in these devastating social conditions and fraught political climate that photographers developed the documentary mode, exploring what it meant for the camera to bear witness to hardship. Maar felt compelled to record the lives of society’s most disadvantaged.

Portrait of Ubu, 1936
Portrait of Ubu, 1936

By the end of the 1930s, Maar had returned to painting. She would devote herself to this medium for the remainder of her life. She was interested in studying composition and form, her sombre palette conveys something more personal. She made landscapes from the banks of the river Seine, a short walk from her front door, and tightly composed still lifes.

House in Ménerbes, 1945
House in Ménerbes, 1945
Still life with jar and cup, 1945
Still life with jar and cup, 1945

In the winter of 1935, Maar met to an uninspired Pablo Picasso, who didn’t paint or sculpt for months. This new friendship made the couple pushed one another into new creative territories. She taught Picasso the complex cliché verre technique- a method combining photography and printmaking that had intrigued him for years. Picasso, in turn, encouraged Maar’s return to painting. From 11 May to 4 June 1937, Maar documented the progression of Picasso’s painting Guernica. He made this monumental work in response to the 26 April, 1937 aerial bombing of the Basque town, one of the worst atrocities of the Spanish Civil War. Until that point, Picasso had never been overtly political. With Maar his outlook was changing.From studies for Guernica came the ‘weeping woman’, the guise in which Picasso cast Maar over 30 times. Yet for Maar, this was not a portrait but a metaphor for the suffering of the Spanish people during the civil war.

Pablo Picasso painting Guernica in the workshop at Grands Augusting, Paris, 1937
Pablo Picasso – Weeping woman, 1937
Portrait of Pablo Picasso, 1936

One day in an interview, Dora Maar said that she never really modelled for Picasso. He never painted her ‘from nature’. One or two drawings maybe, although he did hundreds of portraits of her. Also she confessed that if she had ordered her portrait, she would maybe not have been totally satisfied. The case is that these two great artists enriched each other in a moment of their lives that would leave a legacy forever.

Series of portraits of Dora Maar in front of ‘Femmes a leur toilette’, 1939
Pablo Picasso – Portrait of Dora Maar in profile, 1937

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