Dora Maar Emerges from Picasso’s Shadow at Amar Gallery

An exhibition of Surrealist photographer Dora Maar at Amar Gallery in London spotlights the talent of Picasso’s former lover and coincides with a new book and play. 

Dora Maar: Behind the Lens is the opening exhibition of Amar Gallery in Fitzrovia, founded by British-Indian activist and curator Amar Singh to provide a platform for overlooked female, minority, and LGBT+ artists. Dora Maar: Behind the Lens features previously unseen photographs and photograms from the Dora Maar Estate.

Amar Gallery Founder Amar Singh.

Dora Maar was introduced to Picasso at the Deux Magots cafe in Paris in 1936 by poet Paul Éluard. Picasso was fascinated by her beauty and her dramatic behavior, and legend has it that Maar took off her black gloves, placed her hand on the table, and stabbed repeatedly between her fingers with a knife, sometimes missing which resulted in her hands bleeding. Their relationship was just as dramatic as that first meeting, and although Dora Maar was a successful photographer exhibiting with the Surrealists and running her own photography studio when she met Picasso, his overpowering personality and fame overshadowed her achievements, and she was relegated to the role of Muse, appearing in his paintings as the infamous ‘Weeping Woman’. 

When Maar died aged 89 in 1997, The New York Times described her as ‘a muse of Picasso’ and talked about her role as model for his ‘weeping women’ portraits, and it wasn’t until Tate Modern staged a major Dora Maar exhibition in 2019 that Maar’s pioneering photography was given a spotlight. Dora Maar: Behind the Lens at Amar Gallery is the first exhibition since the Tate retrospective to spotlight Maar’s skill as a photographer in her own right, bringing her talent out of the shadows of Picasso.  

The Amar Gallery exhibition coincides with the upcoming release of bestselling author Louisa Treger’s book, The Paris Muse, based on Maar’s affair with Picasso, and the theatrical production Maar, Dora at Camden Fringe in August.

Louisa Treger: “Dora Maar is mostly known for being Picasso’s ‘Weeping Woman’, as though tears are the only interesting thing about her. Amar Gallery and my novel put her at the heart of the story and give her the recognition she deserves.”

Dora Maar: Behind the Lens presents Surrealist photographs by Maar, as well as her portraits of Picasso and a photo of his iconic anti-war painting Guernica. Maar was a pioneer in the field of photography and admired by the likes of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Man Ray, however her relationship with Picasso obscured her artistic talent.

Maar arrived in Paris at the age of 19 to study at the progressive Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Academy Julian, and Ecole de Photographie, where she refined her distinctive monochrome photographic style. She established herself as a prominent photographer associated with the Surrealist movement, and exhibited in the International Surrealist Exhibition in London in 1936 alongside Salvador Dali, Man Ray, Eileen Agar, and Paul Eluard.

Part of the proceeds from Dora Maar: Behind the Lens will go towards supporting anti-trafficking organisations in India which serve for the protection of women and children.

Dora Maar: Behind the Lens is at in London until 18th August, 2024.

Images courtesy Amar Gallery/ Dora Maar images copyright Dora Maar Estate.

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