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Dora Maar, The Artist, at Centre Pompidou

  • Sans titre, vers 1957
  • Brassaï - Dora Maar dans son atelier, 1943
  • Etude publicitaire Pétrole Hahn, 1934-1935
  • Nature morte au bocal et à la tasse, 1945
  • Nature morte, 1941
June 4, 2019
A philosophy graduate interested in critical theory, politics and art. Alias of Jelena Martinović.

For years, Dora Maar was remembered solely as the muse who inspired Pablo Picasso. However, she was a talented and accomplished artist who made work that developed quickly from acute poetic street realism to otherworldly Surrealist manipulations. She abandoned photography for painting due to Picasso’s insistence that “inside every photographer is a painter trying to get out.” 

The enigmatic artist has been the subject of renewed interest thanks to several posthumous exhibitions. The Centre Pompidou will soon present the largest retrospective dedicated to Dora Maar ever held in France, showcasing the breadth and proficiency of her work in an effort to reposition her as an artist in her own right.

Autoportrait au ventilateur, début années 1930, Barcelone, 1933
Left: Dora Maar – Self-portrait with fan, early 1930s. Paris, early 1930s. Gelatin-silver negative on flexible cellulose nitrate support, 11 x 6.5 cm © Adagp, Paris 2019. Photo © Center Pompidou, MNAM -CCI / Dist. RMN-GP / Right: Dora Maar – Barcelona, 1933. [Saleswomen laughing behind their charcuterie stall, 1933]. Gelatin-silver print, 48.7 x 38.8 cm. Private collection © Adagp, Paris 2019. Photo © Fotogasull

The Practice of Dora Maar

Choosing photography as her profession, Dora Maar initially worked on commissions, opening a photography studio with film set designer Pierre Kéfer. Specializing in portraiture, fashion photography and advertising, she distinguished herself by her photography style as well as her technique of “playing with light, [of] forcing the shadows not to frown,” as Jacques Guenne stated in L’Art Vivant in 1934.

After coming into contact with the Surrealist circles through her shared political engagement and support for the antifascist cause, Maar soon came to bear these ideologies in her artistic practice. Works she produces in this period, Portrait d’Ubu and Le Simulateur, remain her most iconic photographs.

During her ten-year relationship with Pablo Picasso, she reinvented her professional career, taking up an interest in painting, first producing dark and moody paintings, and soon turning to landscapes and then abstraction. As she gradually withdrew from the artistic scene after her separation with Picasso, her late works remained relatively unknown. She only returned to photography during the 1980s, using painterly gestures to create photograms.

Assia, 1934, Sans titre, 1935
Left: Dora Maar – Assia, 1934. Gelatin silver print / 26.4 x 19.5 cm. Purchase thanks to the patronage of Yves Rocher, 2011. Former collection. Christian Bouqueret, Center Pompidou Collection, Paris. National Museum of Modern Art. Center for Industrial Creation © Adagp, Paris 2019 / Photo © Pompidou Center, MNAM-CCI / G. Meguerditchian / Dist. RMN-GP / Right: Dora Maar – Untitled, 1935. Gelatin-silver print, 23.2 x 15 cm. Purchase thanks to the patronage of Yves Rocher, 2011. Former collection Christian Bouqueret Collection Center Pompidou, Paris National Museum of Modern Art Industrial Design Center © Adagp, Paris 2019. Photo credit © Pompidou Center, MNAM-CCI / P. Migeat / dist. NMR-GP

A Comprehensive Retrospective

Although Dora Maar’s work is well represented in the Center Pompidou collection, she has not yet been the subject of a major exhibition at the Museum. The audience will now have a rare opportunity to collectively view works from public and private collections across Europe and North America and reconsider the narrative that surrounds Dora Maar.

The show brings together nearly 500 works and documents from more than 90 lenders, retracing Maar’s career, from her first photographic commissions to engaging with social and political concerns through her street photography, to exercising her surrealist vision to rediscovering painting later in life and returning to the artistic medium that first captivated her.

29 rue Astorg, vers 1936, Portrait de Pablo Picasso, 1936
Left: Dora Maar – 29 rue Astorg, circa 1936. Gelatin-silver print enhanced with color, 29.4 x 24.4 cm. Purchased in 1990, Center Pompidou Collection, Paris. National Museum of Modern Art. Center for Industrial Creation © Adagp, Paris 2019. Photo © Pompidou Center, MNAM-CCI / P. Migeat / Dist. RMN-GP / Right: Doar Maar – Portrait of Pablo Picasso, 1936. Pastel on paper, 57.5 x 45 cm. Private collection, Yann Panier, Courtesy Galerie Brame and Lorenceau © Adagp, Paris 2019. © The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Dora Maar Exhibition at Centre Pompidou

The exhibition Dora Maar will be on view at Centre Pompidou in Paris from June 5th until July 29th, 2019.

Co-organized with the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, in collaboration with Tate Modern in London, the exhibition will be presented at Tate from November 19th, 2019 until March 15th, 2020 and then at the Getty between April 21st and July 26th, 2020.

Featured image: Dora Maar – Untitled, circa 1957. Chinese ink on paper, 21 x 29.5 cm. Private collection © Adagp, Paris 2019. Photo © DR; Brassaï – Dora Maar in his studio, 1943. Oil on canvas, 45.5 x 50 cm. Private collection © Adagp, Paris, 2019. Photo © Pompidou Center, MNAM-CCI / P. Migeat / Dist. NMR-GP; Dora Maar – Advertising study Hahn Oil, 1934-1935. Negative gelatin-silver on flexible support in cellulose nitrate 17.6 x 24 cm. Purchased in 2004. Center Pompidou Collection, Paris National Museum of Modern Art, Center for Industrial Creation © Adagp, Paris 2019. Photo © Pompidou Center, MNAM-CCI / Dist. NMR-GP; Dora Maar – Still Life with a Jar and a Cup, 1945. Oil on canvas, 45.5 x 50 cm. Private collection © Adagp, Paris, 2019. Photo © Pompidou Center, MNAM-CCI / P. Migeat / Dist. NMR-GP; Dora Maar – Still Life, 1941. Oil on canvas, 50 x 61 cm. Galerie Makassar-France, Paris. Promise of donation to the Pompidou Center, National Museum of Modern Art, Paris © Adagp, Paris, 2019 Photo © Pompidou Center, MNAM-CCI / A. Laurans / Dist. NMR-GP. All images courtesy of Center Pompidou.