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Dora Maar, Picasso’s Weeping Woman

By Stephen Eaker


Dora MAar 1936 photo by Man Ray

Dora Maar was a beautiful and vibrant woman with an immense intelligence and a quick temper. She would paint her finger nails according to her moods, so when you see a Picasso painting of Dora with green finger nails, this is not just Picasso’s imagination at work. Her real name was Henriette Theodora Markovitch. She was born on November 22, 1907, in the sixth district of Paris. When Dora was three, her family moved to Buenos Aires, where she learned to speak fluent Spanish, and this later was a great attraction for Picasso. There was strife between her parents and a lack of privacy while growing up—her room had a glass door covered by a curtain to the outside—so that she could be spied on and never really be alone. It is possible that her later life as a recluse may have been influenced by this lack of privacy during her childhood. In 1926, she and her family moved back to Paris, where she attended school and also took painting lessons. She became interested in photography and met a young Henri Cartier Bresson during this time. She shortened her name to Dora Maar and gave up painting when she began to receive more encouragement for her photographs. Her unconventional attitudes and actions led her to the Surrealists, who considered her an icon, ever since they saw her enter the Café Flore with her wet hair matted over her face and her mascara running.

“Dora Maar, Picasso’s Weeping Woman”
Wed, Nov 26, 4:30 and 6:30pm
La Ostra Roja
A Casa Verde Annex
San Jorge 45 (off Refugio Sur)
130 pesos
or 121 1026

In 1936, she met Pablo Picasso at the Deux Magots Café in Saint Germain des Prés. She was playing an interesting game with a knife, stabbing it between her fingers very fast and sometimes cutting herself. This caught the attention of Picasso, who was seated nearby. When he told his friend, in Spanish, how beautiful she was, Dora Maar answered “Gracias,” and Picasso was instantly hooked on this dark and passionate beauty. She became his primary mistress and a partner in artistic collaboration. She was the only photographer allowed in his studio when he was painting Guernica. She returned to painting during her years with Picasso and actually painted on his Guernica. She faced World War II by his side. She became more emotionally unstable and worried when Picasso met Francoise Gilot in 1942. It was only a matter of time before Dora Maar was out.

Picasso and Dora’s relationship ended by 1946, and he offered her a house in the south of France as a goodbye present. He had traded a small still life for a large house in Ménerbes. Dora suffered a nervous breakdown not long afterwards and received treatment from Dr. Lacan, including electrical shock therapy. Upon recovery, she continued to live and work in Paris, but by the 1950s, she began to pull away from people and lived mainly as a recluse in the south of France for 40 years. Toward the end of her life, she returned to her surrealist photography. One of the very few people she would see in her final years was her friend John Richardson, who was not only Picasso’s friend, but perhaps his best biographer.

Dora Maar was an eccentric, theatrical woman and artist, much more than just Picasso’s famous weeping woman. She was also an artistic pioneer during some of the most exciting days of 20th century art history. Her photography was respected by Brassai and Henri Cartier Bresson, and she helped invent some new photographic techniques while collaborating with Picasso.

I invite you to hear the fascinating and also tragic story of Dora Maar, who is, for many Picasso scholars and enthusiasts, the most mesmerizing and intelligent woman in the Spaniard’s life. She was the woman who inspired some of Picasso’s most famous works and became a victim to his genius.


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