Thursday, October 15, 2015

Dora Maar With And Without Picasso: A Biography, by Mary Ann Caws

"Another reason for refusing the reduction of Dora Maar's memory to "the Weeping Woman" is the crucial fact that she drew upon her lover's imagery in her own representations of his work. This says a great deal about her strength. Her recovery of her image, the agency of her own art, have not been taken as seriously as they deserve. She was not simply "imitating" Picasso, as has been said: she was too intelligent for that. Nor is she "imitating" his portraits of her. She is collaborating in their representation of this tragedy, as she did in photographing his work.

All the same, her submission to what seems to have been Picasso's wish demonstrates a great sacrifice of her talent and her individuality. She was intensely conscious of this, once saying about their relationship, "I wasn't Picasso's mistress, he was just my master."

One positive effect of her renunciation of photography was the renewal of her friendship with that other photographer of genius, Brassaï: "Professional jealousy shaken off, there was no longer any obstacle to our friendship ..." When Dora Maar's still lifes were exhibited in 1944, Brassäi insisted that one fact deserved underlining: "She has managed to keep herself free of Picasso's formidable influence. Her still lifes - a loaf of bread, a pitcher or a jug - are extremely austere and recall nothing of her friend's colours or any of the periods of his work." Françoise Gilot, herself a painter, considered that Maar excelled in a chiaroscuro that was missing in Picasso's work, and in the painting of ordinary objects: "Lamp or an alarm clock or a piece of bread ... [they] made you feel she wasn't so much interested in them as their solitude, the terrible solitude and void that surrounded everything in that penumbra." - Mary Ann Caws

Read the full excerpt here.

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