Vintage gelatin silver print, 1936 or earlier
9 x 5 1/8 inches
Framed to 20 x 16 inches
Lee Gallery, Boston
Galerie Octant, Paris, c. 1990
Christian Zervos (1889-1970)
Dora Maar (French 1907-1997) was 19 when she began pursuing the artistic life, studying painting and photography. But when she met Pablo Picasso her life would never be the same. Living in the shadow of the greatest artist of her time, Maar suffered from self-doubt and depression through their nine-year romantic affair. As World War II ravaged Europe, she found herself left behind and suffered a nervous breakdown. Upon recovery, she pursued art and religion with equal verve until her death in 1997.
Dora Maar was born Henriette Théodora Markovitch in Paris, France, on November 22, 1907. Her father’s career as a successful architect job forced the rest family to move to Buenos Aires, Argentina when Maar was 3 years old. In school, she spoke both Spanish and French fluently, ultimately learning to read English texts as well. In 1926 the family moved back to Paris; she enrolled in a photography school and then at the Académie Julian. working on both painting and photography. Her photographs received more attention and by the mid-1930s her energies were almost exclusivley devoted to photography. She also shortened her name to Dora Maar during this period.
Maar would experience one of the defining moments of her life in late 1935 on the set of the Jean Renoir film “Le Crime de Monsieur Lange” where she met Picasso.The first meeting didn’t hint at what was to come, but the second, in 1936 at the famed cafe Les Deux Magots inSt.-Germain-des-Prés, led to a lasting romantic affair. Soon after Maar moved to an apartment around the corner from Picasso’s studio–she was not allowed to enter without an invitation! Between 1936 and 1937, Picasso and Maar collaborated on certain artistic endeavors; he regularly painted portraits of her, including “Weeping Woman” (1937) and “Dora Maar Seated” (1937); and Maar herself became part of the Surrealist movement that Picasso had spearheaded. She had her first photography exhibition at the Galerie de Beaune in Paris in 1937. Despite the torrid and artistic affair with Picasso, and the success of her own works, Maar suffered bouts of despair, depression and self-criticism—no doubt exacerbated by living in the very large shadow of the genius with whom she was sharing her life.
In May 1943, Picasso met Françoise Gilot, 20 years younger than Maar and 40 years younger than Picasso; the pair embarked upon a love affair. Picasso and Maar continued to see each other until 1946, but after the pair split for good, Maar sank deeper into depression and began living a more secluded life. Her depression soon transformed into a full-blown nervous breakdown; she underwent three weeks of electroshock therapy in a psychiatric hospital. falling under the care of psychiatrist Jacques Lacan, with whom she underwent years of analysis. She slowly began to recover, in part by embracing religion and renouncing all ties to her Surrealist past, eventually deciding on the Roman Catholic Church. She would remain devout until her death. Maar outlived Picasso by 24 years, and nine years after her death, Picasso’s “Dora Maar au Chat” (“Dora Maar with Cat”) was auctioned for $95.2 million, making it one of the world’s most expensive paintings sold at auction.
In 1933 Oscar Domínguez met André Breton, a theoretician of Surrealism, and Paul Éluard, known as the poet of this movement, and took part a year later in the Surrealist exhibitions held in Copenhagen and in London and Tenerife in 1936, the year of this photograph. After his move to Paris in 1932, exhibiting his Surrealist paintings in Tenerife in 1933, he became part of the Surrealist circle where he developed a technique called decalcomania involving pouring diluted black gouache between two sheets of paper pressed gently together. Domínguez’s other contributions are ‘objects-monuments’ of humor and sadism (appropriately arising after Breton writes about the crisis of the object), cosmic landscapes, and the theory of the solidification of time, or “lithochronism” formulated with the Argentinian writer and artist, Ernesto Sábato.