Happy Birthday, Dora Maar (Video)

On this day, November 22, in 1907, artist Dora Maar was born in France.

"[Dora Maar] was one of Picasso’s best-known mistresses…but she was much more," said art collector and filmmaker David Raymond, whose once-beloved photograph are now owned and on view at the Cleveland Museum of Art as part of the exhibition, Forbidden Games: Surrealist and Modernist Photography. Since acquiring the collection, the CMA now boasts the largest grouping of photographs by Maar in the United States - and one of the largest in the world.

"She was an incredible photographer who was active with the surrealists.  When her works en masse came for sale in Paris I was compelled to go to Paris to see the work and acquire it as much as I could.  Dealers in Paris that I knew said, “you’re crazy…why do you want to buy that work?”  I said, 'because I think it is important.'  She had a very unique eye," Raymond said.

In the video interview above with Raymond and photo historian Ian Walker, we take a closer look at the mentioned work - Double Portrait with Hat, by Dora Maar. To produce this complex image, Maar sandwiched together two negatives of the same model, one frontal and one profile, scavenged from a magazine assignment on springtime hats, and painted the background and hat (or decomposing halo?) onto the negative. Softening the emulsion, she scraped and lifted it off, techniques that involve destruction and suggest disintegration. The face evokes Picasso’s depictions of female faces, especially his 1938 paintings of weeping women for which Maar was the model. Although the divided face is not Maar’s, it is tempting to interpret it as a reflection of her emotional state at the time, torn between her career and independence and Picasso’s demands and potent personality.

"To me this is the one that was most completely realized in terms of what I believe was her intention," Raymond shared. "Bringing these two faces together…in it you can see her interrelation with Picasso and the influence he might have had.  But at the same time this is her …this is her work and it is very unique to her."

Learn more about Dora Maar via the clip above, and don't miss Forbidden Games: Surrealist and Modernist Photography, on view now - free at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Pictured above: Double Portrait with Hat, c. 1936-1937. Dora Maar (French, 1907-1997). Gelatin silver print, montage with handwork on negative, Image - h:29.80 w:23.80 cm (h:11 11/16 w:9 5/16 inches). Gift of David Raymond 2008.172. © 2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.


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