artincontext Main Index   |   Welcome   |   Register   |   Edit

Dora Maar
Double Portrait
Gelatin silver print

10 7/8 x 9 inches
Collection: SFMOMA | Gift of Carla Emil and Rich Silverstein
Copyright © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

SFMOMA Permanent URL:

Excerpt from Smithsonian Magazine:

A Look Back at the Artist Dora Maar:
The photographer best remembered as Picasso’s muse steps out of his shadow

By Amy Crawford
Smithsonian Magazine [article link]
April 2018

In the early 1930s, Dora Maar (1907-1997) was a leading Surrealist photographer whose daring darkroom experiments hung in Paris galleries alongside the work of Man Ray and Salvador Dali. “She was exploring psychology and dreams and inner states,” says Erin O’Toole, a curator at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, where Maar’s Double Portrait (c. 1930s) is appearing in a new group show. Maar’s soaring career faltered after she met Pablo Picasso in 1935. She modeled for him—she was the famed “Weeping Woman”—and became best known as his lover and muse. Picasso, no fan of photography, persuaded her to close her studio, and after their relationship ended, Maar could not regain her former fame. “All his portraits of me are lies,” she would later say. “They’re all Picassos. Not one is Dora Maar.” Those Cubist canvases are no longer the final word on Maar now that her own creations—mysterious, groundbreaking—are again hanging alongside the greats.

Maar’s Surrealist work was on display at SFMOMA and will be featured at Paris’ Centre Pompidou and L.A.’s Getty Center in 2019. (Courtesy SFMOMA / © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / Adagp, Paris)

Follow Smithsonian: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter


Excerpt from Vogue Magazine:

Rediscovering the Photography of Picasso’s Lover and Muse
by Eve MacSweeney
Vogue Magazine [article link]
April 7, 2017

Among Picasso’s famous gallery of wives and mistresses, Dora Maar, his companion of nine years, until 1945, may be the least well-known to us. She had no children with the artist to keep the flame of his contested legacy alive, and, after their split, became fiercely private. In the new book, Dora Maar: Paris in the Time of Man Ray, Jean Cocteau, and Picasso (Rizzoli), Louise Baring describes her subject, who died in 1997, as “a proud, enigmatic recluse.” She withdrew from romantic life at the age of 39 after having extensive electroshock therapy for her broken heart, reconnected with her childhood religion as a devout Catholic—she claimed she had replaced Picasso with God—and lived a further fifty years between a half-shuttered house in the Lubéron (a gift from her ex, who had traded it for a painting) and her apartment in Paris. This became an effective mausoleum enshrining her grand affair, dusty and filled to the rafters with artworks and mementos.

Personally elusive, Maar is nevertheless highly visible in Picasso’s numerous portraits of her, some velvety and tender, others depicting her in every shade of anguish as the model for the Weeping Woman series the artist produced after the Spanish Civil War. These works have stamped her as an abject muse—which to some extent she was. (In 1933, she had a love affair with the Marquis de Sade’s follower, the transgressive writer George Bataille, and an element of sadomasochism was understood to have energized her subsequent relationship with Picasso.) Yet she was so much more than a victim: a vivacious intellectual, political activist, gifted visual artist, and charismatic beauty adored by the Surrealists, photographed by Man Ray, sketched by Cocteau, and an inspiration for André Breton’s gallery Gradiva on the Rue de Seine. (The “d” stood for Dora.)

Most importantly, Maar, who became a painter under Picasso’s influence, was previously a photographer of great originality and substance. “She was very successful,” says Baring. “Picasso, who considered photography a minor art, destroyed her career. I wanted to bring her out of his shadow.” The book, which includes 25 previously unpublished works by Maar, underscores her growing recognition for having produced a number of key Surrealist photographs, as well as powerful, intimate portraits.

Born Henriette Markovitch in 1907, the daughter of a Croatian father and French mother, Maar spent her childhood in Buenos Aires before returning to Paris to study art (she was a classmate of Henri Cartier-Bresson) and photography. She began working for magazines creating fashion and beauty images, many of them infused with a Modernist sensibility and a haunting lyricism evoked by photomontage—superimposing, for example, a model’s body to look as though it was serenely floating on rippling water for a swimsuit advertisement in 1936. Alongside these commercial endeavors she devised what Baring calls a “cryptic dreamworld” in compositions that placed figures in strange and disorienting settings, such as spiraling brickwork, suggesting the mysterious machinations of the unconscious mind.

Baring’s book coincides with a wider rediscovery of Maar’s work. An exhibition of her photographs is planned for Paris’s Centre Pompidou in 2019 that will subsequently travel to Los Angeles’s Getty Center. She may not have lived long enough to witness her renaissance but—in spirit at least—Dora Maar would doubtless welcome this vindication of her vivid, questing eye.

© 1995-2019 Art in Context Center for Communications. All rights reserved.