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Dora Maar: Behind the Lens 

Discovering Picasso’s muse

Although best known for her romantic relationship with Picasso and for being the subject of several of his paintings, Dora Maar was an artist in her own right, particularly gifted at photography. This summer, The Amar Gallery Fitzrovia presents Dora Maar: Behind the Lens, an exhibition celebrating her life, in conjunction with the release of Louisa Treger’s book, The Paris Muse, and the theatrical production Maar, Dora which is performing at Camden Fringe in August.

Dora Maar (1907-1997) was a poet, a painter and a photographer. Masters of the medium, such as Henri Cartier-Bresson and Man Ray, had a deep respect for her work and felt she was greatly overshadowed by the global fame of her lover.

The show at The Amar Gallery celebrates Maar’s life and gives visitors the chance to discover exclusive surreal works from the Dora Maar Estate, as well as photographs of Picasso and Guernica, where she was the only official photographer.

From the left, Dora Maar’s La Sagrada Familia – Barcelona (c. 1933), gelatin silver print (edition of 5); Abstract Compositions (c. 1980), unique photogram; and Abstract Compositions (Virgin and Crucifix, (c. 1980), unique photogram. Images courtesy of the Dora Maar Estate.

Dora arrived in Paris at the age of 19 and studied at the progressive École des Beaux-Arts, Academy Julian, and École de Photographie. Her distinctive style in black and white helped her establish herself as a prominent photographer. During the 1930s, her provocative photomontages became icons of the surrealist. At the 1936 International Surrealist Exhibition in London, her work was displayed alongside Salvador Dali, Man Ray, Eileen Agar, and Paul Eluard.

In Europe’s increasingly fraught political climate, Maar signed her name to numerous left-wing manifestos, a radical gesture for a woman at that time and one that identified her clearly as a detractor of fascism.

Picasso’s Guernica (1937) is considered by many as the most moving and powerful anti-war painting in history. The artist painted it in response to the bombing of Guernica, a town in the Spanish Basque Country in northern Spain, by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. The painting soon became globally famous, helping to bring attention to the Spanish Civil War.

During her time with Picasso, she documented the creation of his most political work, Guernica (1937). Together, they made a series of portraits combining experimental photographic and printmaking techniques.

In middle and later life Maar withdrew from photography. She concentrated on painting and found stimulation and solace in poetry, religion, and philosophy, returning to her darkroom only in her seventies.

“Amar Gallery and my novel, The Paris Muse, put Dora Maar at the heart of the story and give her the recognition she deserves.”

                    – Louisa Treger


Amar Singh, owner of The Amar Gallery Fitzrovia commented, “I’ve always been interested in Dora Maar’s story, and feel she was greatly overlooked as an artist. Her photographs are truly remarkable and show a great deal of skill. But because she was with Picasso, her talent was somehow suppressed.” Louisa Tregger added, “She is mostly known for being Picasso’s ‘Weeping Woman’ as though tears are the only interesting thing about her.”

Singh launched his gallery to champion overlooked female, minority, and LGBT+ artists. His indefatigable work was instrumental in the suppression of the LGBQT+ conversion therapy in India; he has campaigned for the legislation of same-sex relationships in the subcontinent.; and regularly donates to charitable organisations supporting the rights and protection of women and children being subjected to violence, exploitation, and trafficking in India.

Part of the proceeds from Dora Maar: Behind the Lens will go towards supporting Shakti Vahini and We Power, two notable anti-trafficking organisations in India.

Dora Maar: Behind the Lens 
16th June – 18th August
The Amar Gallery Fitzrovia
12-14 Kirkman House, Whitfield Street, London W1T 2RF
More details and information HERE.

Words: Julia Pasarón

Opening image: Dora Maar, Self Portrait (c. 1935). Gelatin silver print (edition of 5). Courtesy of the Dora Maar Estate.

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