Dora Maar, immortalized in Pablo Picasso’s vibrant Portrait of Dora Maar (1937), is probably best known as the Spanish artist’s lover and muse. Thus the Parisian photographer’s own artistic oeuvre was, for many decades, in the shadow of her eight-year relationship with Picasso. Now, 22 years after her death, Maar is receiving the wider acclaim she deserves with the largest retrospective of her work ever mounted in the UK, opening at Tate Modern on November 20.
Featuring more than 200 works from a career spanning over six decades, the exhibition will include photographs (both commercial commissions and personal work), paintings, and collages that demonstrate Maar’s innovative approach to constructing images. Dramatically lit, her photographs often feature surreal combinations of objects—a mannequin hand emerging from a spiraled shell, a woman in an evening gown whose head appears to be a giant, glittery star—that are just odd enough to provoke both curiosity and revulsion.
“There is so much more to Maar than her relatively short relationship [with Picasso],” says Emma Lewis, assistant curator at Tate Modern. “By the time she met Picasso, Maar had established herself as one of the most innovative commercial photographers of her time; her photographs, photocollages, and photomontages were beginning to occupy a unique place within the Surrealist movement. Later she was prolific as a painter, and many of her canvases were exhibited to critical acclaim.” Here’s to her work’s much-deserved moment in the spotlight.
Image on homepage: Liberty 1936 Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper 300 x 200 mm Collection Therond © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2019