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Dora Maar (1907 – 1997)

Constellation, 1936

Catalogue essay by Sacha Llewellyn

Dora Maar worked as an assistant for Man Ray in the late 20s’ and 30s, and they stayed in close contact even after she opened her own photography studio (with Pierre Kéfer) at 29 Rue d’Astorg, Paris. In 1935, Maar met Pablo Picasso and the pair became lovers – a relationship that lasted until 1943. In this ethereal work, created soon after they met, Maar has embellished a page from Cahiers d’Art Picasso 1930-1935 (1936) with spots of ink to create a multicoloured constellation (embellishing Man Ray’s iconic photographic portrait). Possibly inspired by Picasso’s use of pointillism, as in works such as Le Retour de baptême d’après Le Nain (1917), Maar has used the technique as an artistic exploration of the limits between abstraction and figuration. Such combinations – juxtaposing pre-existing elements to transform them into new creations – was a central feature of Surrealism. Paul Eluard once said of Dora Maar that she ‘holds every image in her hands’. A remarkable artist in her own right, her work explored themes such as eroticism, sleep, the unconscious and the relationship between art and reality.

x W49cm
Colored ink over a photographic portrait by Man Ray from a proof of the 1936 Edition Cahiers d'art
Maar, Dora

Dora Maar (1907 – 1997)

Born Henriette Théodora Markovitch in Paris in 1907, Dora Maar spent her early years in Argentina, where her father worked as an architect. With her family, she returned to Paris in 1926, and studied at the Académie Julian and the École de Photographie. In the 1930s, she shared a studio with Brassaï and met Emmanuel Sougez, who became her mentor. Maar quickly made a name for herself, achieving critical and commercial success with her still lifes, photograms, portraits, publicity shots as well as fashion and erotic photographs. On travels through Spain, Paris and London she also shot a vast number of urban scenes, catching droll street images and vignettes of everyday life. In 1931, she opened a photographic studio with set designer Pierre Kéfer. A close friend of Jacqueline Lamba, she was a fully-fledged member of the Surrealist group, photographing many of its members. In 1936 she met Picasso, becoming his lover, subject, and muse and educated him in photographic techniques. After their break-up 9 years later, she spent much of her time living and working in a house in Provence that he purchased for her, producing textile designs, and devoting more time to painting. Maar spent her last years in her apartment in Rue de Savoie, in Paris.

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