Dora Maar muse with "The Three Dancers," by Pablo Picasso, 1925. Dora Maar muse, designed and sculpted in textiles by artist, Marina Elphick. Dora Maar, one of six of Picasso's muses and lovers, Dora Maar was a renowned Surrealist photographer and artist herself.

Dora Maar, Surrealist & Picasso’s muse

Dora Maar was Picasso’s fourth mistress and muse and the polar opposite to Marie-Thérèse Walter, Picasso’s previous lover and muse.

Dora Maar muse with "Les Femmes d' Alger", by Picasso 1955; colour adjusted by Marina. Dora Maar muse, designed and sculpted in textiles by artist, Marina Elphick. Dora Maar, Picasso's muse and lover, was a renowned Surrealist photographer and artist herself.
Dora Maar muse with “Les Femmes d’ Alger”, by Picasso 1955; colour adjusted by Marina.

Dora seemed perfect as a candidate for one of my muse creations; inspiring in a powerful and abstract way, visually captivating, with a life story saturated in art history and heartache. She was to be a compelling subject.

Dora muse with "Portrait de Femme",1942, Picasso. Dora Maar muse, designed and sculpted in textiles by artist, Marina Elphick. Dora Maar, Picasso's muse and lover, was a talented photographer and artist herself.
Dora muse with “Portrait de Femme”, 1942, Picasso.
Dora Maar muse, designed and sculpted in textiles by artist, Marina Elphick. Dora Maar, Surrealist Photographer and painter in her own right was muse and lover of Picasso.
Muse set in “Dora Maar in Armchair”, by Picasso in 1939.
Muse, Dora Maar with the painting that inspired her, "Bust of a Woman ", 1938, by Pablo Picasso. Dora Maar muse, designed and sculpted in textiles by artist, Marina Elphick. Picasso's model and muse
Muse, Dora Maar with the painting that inspired her, “Bust of a Woman “, 1938, by Pablo Picasso.

Dora has been a challenging muse to create, Picasso’s distorted and multi faceted faces portraying her are incredible, but tricky to interpret in three dimensions. Several trial head shapes had to be made before I felt she was going to work. I modelled her loosely on Picasso’s “Bust of a Woman” portrait.    

When Dora Maar first met Picasso in 1935 she was already a successful commercial and avant-garde photographer, holding a prominent place in Parisian bohemian circles as a surrealist artist, photographer and poet. She was a vividly subversive figure, a “free thinker, libertarian with leftist tendencies” and was exhibited alongside Max Ernst, Rene Magritte and Salvador Dali, surrealist greats. To Picasso she was an accomplished artist, intellectually his equal and had a passionate drive, artistically and sexually.

Dora Muse with Le baiser, Picasso 1962. Dora Maar, muse and lover of Picasso. Dora Maar muse, designed and sculpted in textiles by artist, Marina Elphick.
Dora Muse with Le baiser by Picasso.

 

Dora Maar muse set in Picasso's painting, " La Rue des Bois", 1908. Dora Maar muse, designed and sculpted in textiles by artist, Marina Elphick. Picasso's paintings.Dora Maar, Picasso's muse and lover, Dora Maar was a renowned Surrealist photographer and artist herself.
Dora Maar muse set in Picasso’s painting, ” La Rue des Bois”, 1908.

 

Dora and 'The Muse', 1935 Picasso. Dora Maar muse, designed and sculpted in textiles by artist, Marina Elphick, inspired by the paintings of Picasso. Dora Maar, Picasso's muse and lover, was a talented photographer and artist herself.
Dora and ‘The Muse’, 1935 by Picasso. Dora Maar was a talented photographer and artist herself.

Dora Maar

Dora Maar, originally Theodora Markovic was born in Tours, France, in November 1907, and spent her childhood in Argentina, where her Croatian father worked as an architect.

Dora arrived in Paris around 1926 aged 18, a beautiful raven-haired young woman. She enrolled at the ‘École des Beaux-Arts’ which offered the same tuition to women as to men; here she met Henri Cartier-Bresson, humanist photographer and female surrealist Jacqueline Lamba. It was while studying that Dora adapted the pseudonym of Dora Maar and was drawn into the world of photography; initially as a model for Man Ray and then as a significant photographer in her own right.

By her early twenties, she had become renowned in Paris for her fashion and advertising photographs. It was through advertising that Dora Maar first experimented with surrealistic photomontage. (In one of her advertisements for ‘Pétrole Hahn hair oil’, ripples of wavy blonde hair pour out from the bottle turned on its side and a miniature ship sails along the waves of hair as though on a stormy sea.)

Dora developed her work toward surrealism under the guidance of the poet Paul Éluard, plus Andre Breton and Man Ray, both surrealist photographers. In 1936 she was with them at the Deux Magots café when Picasso noticed her and asked to be introduced, she was 29 years old and he 54.

At the time Dora was at a table playing a dangerous game involving stabbing a knife between her gloved fingers repeatedly with her other hand, sometimes missing and drawing blood. Picasso was fascinated by her impetuous act of self-mutilation, playing with a knife as one would with fire. He later asked to keep her bloodstained gloves as mementos and locked them in a display cabinet.

Dora Maar muse with "The Three Dancers," by Pablo Picasso, 1925. Dora Maar muse, designed and sculpted in textiles by artist, Marina Elphick. Dora Maar, muse and lover of Picasso.
Dora Maar muse with “The Three Dancers,” by Pablo Picasso, 1925.

Dora Maar soon became Picasso’s mistress, muse, and intellectual companion; the liaison between them would last nearly nine years  without Picasso breaking his relationship with Marie-Thérèse, his previous lover and mother of his child Maya.

Dora muse, The artist with his model by Picasso, 1963. Dora Maar muse, designed and sculpted in textiles by artist, Marina Elphick, inspired by the paintings of Picasso.Dora Maar, Picasso's muse and lover, was a talented photographer and artist herself.
Dora muse, The artist with his model by Picasso, 1963.

At the beginning of the affair, the two women would at times have lived together in the same house; Dora the ‘Public’ muse and Marie Thérèse the private lover. On at least one occasion they posed together for Picasso. It was an abusive relationship in which he made Dora fight Marie-Thérèse for his love.

Recounted by Picasso:

“I have a child by this man. It’s my place to be here with him,” said Marie-Thérèse. “You can leave right now.” Dora said, “I have as much reason as you have to be here. I haven’t borne him a child but I don’t see what difference that makes.”

“Finally, Marie-Thérèse turned to me and said, ‘Make up your mind. Which one of us goes?’ It was a hard decision to make. I liked them both, for different reasons: Marie-Thérèse because she was sweet and gentle and did whatever I wanted her to, and Dora because she was intelligent … I told them they’d have to fight it out themselves. So they began to wrestle.”

 Picasso summed up the incident as “one of my choicest memories”.

Picasso didn’t see this as his problem, the women had to deal with their jealousy.

Dora Maar with Picasso's Matador. Dora Maar muse, designed and sculpted in textiles by artist, Marina Elphick.Dora Maar, Picasso's muse and lover, was a talented photographer and artist herself.
Dora Maar muse with Picasso’s “Matador.”

Dora suggested moving to a new studio, and in 1937 Picasso moved to an enormous attic at the top of an elegant 17th-century mansion, once home to the Dukes of Savoy, at 7 rue des Grands Augustins. Dora moved just around the corner to an apartment at 6 rue de Savoie.

Muse, Dora Maar in Picasso's studio, photograph by André Villers. Dora Maar muse, designed and sculpted in textiles by artist, Marina Elphick.Dora Maar, muse and lover of Picasso.
Muse, Dora Maar in Picasso’s studio, photograph by André Villers.

Dora was Picasso’s partner during the period of his greatest political engagement; Spain’s agony during the Civil War. She assisted Picasso in setting up his new studio and while he painted the monumental “Guernica”, his masterpiece, depicting the atrocities of bombing that small town.

Picasso's Guernica was painted as an immediate reaction to the Nazi's devastating test bombing of the Basque town of Guernica during Spanish Civil War,1937.
Picasso’s Guernica was painted as an immediate reaction to the Nazi’s devastating test bombing of the Basque town of Guernica during Spanish Civil War,1937. It was history’s first aerial saturation bombing of a civilian population.

Dora made a photographic record of its progress, aiding his creative momentum. Despite her devotion and assistance, she was not welcome in Picasso’s studio unless invited.

Dora Maar muse with Picasso's epic painting Guernica. Dora Maar, Picasso's muse and lover, photographed the painting in progress. Dora Maar muse, designed and sculpted in textiles by artist, Marina Elphick.Dora Maar, Picasso's muse and lover, was a talented photographer and artist herself.
Dora Maar muse with Picasso’s epic painting Guernica, exhibited at Paris International Exposition in 1937. Dora photographed the painting in progress.

Dora Maar, with her strong personality and intelligence, was instrumental in expanding and influencing Picasso’s political awareness. She was a member of the Union of Intellectuals Against Fascism and was active in other anti-Fascist groups.

Muse Dora Maar in Picasso's "Studio in California", painted in 1956. Dora Maar muse, designed and sculpted in textiles by artist, Marina Elphick. Dora Maar, Picasso's muse and lover, was a talented photographer and artist herself.
Muse, Dora Maar set in Picasso’s studio.

    Despite the success of her career and her passionate and artistic affair with Picasso, Dora Maar suffered bouts of despair, depression and self-criticism. It must have been very challenging living under the shadow of such a genius and his crushing presence.

    Between 1938 -1944 Picasso painted Dora Maar dozens of times over, creating the extraordinary “ Weeping Woman” series of artworks.

 

In time Dora’s stormy relationship with Picasso degenerated, she was increasingly portrayed in a cruel and tragic light. Picasso said of her:

“ For me she’s the weeping woman. For years I’ve painted her in tortured forms, not through sadism, and not with pleasure, either; just obeying a vision that forced itself on me. It was the deep reality, not the superficial one… Dora, for me, was always a weeping woman….And it’s important, because women are suffering machines.”

"Painter and his model in a Landscape," 1953 by Picasso, with Dora Maar muse facing outward. Dora Maar muse, designed and sculpted in textiles by artist, Marina Elphick. Dora Maar, Picasso's muse and lover, was a talented photographer and artist herself.“Painter and his model in a Landscape,” 1953 by Picasso, with Dora Maar muse.

Dora had shared Picasso with Marie-Thérèse and their daughter Maya for years, which hadn’t been easy. He would often imply that she was unfeminine, that her sterility ( rarely spoken of, but possibly a factor in her complicated personality) was the opposite of Marie-Thérèse’s gentle and curvaceous fertility.

My muse of Dora Maar in front of Picasso's painting, "Mandelin et Guitare". Dora Maar muse, designed and sculpted in textiles by artist, Marina Elphick.Dora Maar, muse and lover of Picasso.
Marina’s muse of Dora Maar in front of Picasso’s painting, “Mandelin et Guitare”.

Dora’s state of mind became increasingly unstable as her jealousy mounted. Their relationship came to an end in 1943, when Picasso replaced Dora with 23 year old art student Françoise Gilot, as his new lover and muse. Dora continued to model for him episodically until 1946.

Dora Maar with Cubist person, by Picasso 1917. Dora Maar, muse and lover of Picasso. Dora Maar muse, designed and sculpted in textiles by artist, Marina Elphick.
Dora Maar with Cubist person, by Picasso 1917.

After the pair split for good, Dora Maar aged 39 sank into deep depression and began to lead a secluded life. She withdrew further, after having extensive electroshock therapy for a nervous breakdown, or some say a broken heart. She then spent two years under the care of Jacques Lacan, the renowned French psychoanalyst and psychiatrist. Eventually she made a reasonably good recovery, but never regained her artistic confidence or vitality.

Dora Maar muse in " Maisonette dans un jardin" by Picasso 1908. Dora Maar muse, designed and sculpted in textiles by artist, Marina Elphick.Dora Maar, Picasso's muse and lover, was a talented photographer and artist herself.
Dora Maar muse in ” Maisonette dans un jardin” by Picasso 1908.

Picasso bought her a house in Ménerbes, the fortified hill-village in Luberon, Provence, which he traded for a painting. Dora retired there and lived alone, reading and finding solace in the Catholic church, mysticism and her painting. She kept many paintings that had been given to her by Picasso, but sold others for large sums of money to live on.

For a while, once past the worst of her private grief, there followed a period in which Dora Maar became once more part of the avant-garde circuit, resuming her painting and photography and even socialising.

She had not, of course, forgotten Picasso; even 10 years after they had separated, he never refrained in his attempts to humiliate her; (exposing intimate drawings of her, sending cruel, impossible gifts that would hurt or disappoint her).

Towards the end of her life, she treasured all that she had preserved of Picasso. The kitchen was precious because he had stepped inside, the chairs, because he had sat in them. She held dear all her memories of him.

A devout Catholic to the end, Dora Maar died on July 16, 1997, at the age of 89. She had outlived Picasso by 24 years.

Dora Maar muse, inspired by Picasso, in Frosty lane. Dora Maar muse, designed and sculpted in textiles by artist, Marina Elphick.Dora Maar, muse and lover of Picasso.
Dora Maar muse in Frosty lane. Inspired by Picasso, created by Marina Elphick and photographed near her home in Sussex.

 

Inspired by Picasso's paintings of her, Dora Maar muse has been sculpted in textiles by Marina Elphick. Dora Maar Surrealist photographer, muse and Picasso's lover, lived under his shadow and her confidence drained away when he left her.
Inspired by Picasso’s paintings of her, Dora Maar muse, sculpted in textiles by Marina Elphick.

Acknowledgements and further reading

A Tortured Goddess by Mary Ann Caws

Dora Maar, a Muse of Picasso by Alan Riding NYT

Dora Maar: Paris in the Time of Man Ray, Jean Cocteau, and Picasso

by Louise Baring

Obituary: Dora Maar by Michael Peppiat Independent

Detail of Dora Maar muse " Maisonette dans un jardin" by Picasso 1908. Dora Maar muse, designed and sculpted in textiles by artist, Marina Elphick. Dora Maar, one of six of Picasso's muses and lovers, Dora Maar was a renowned Surrealist photographer and artist herself.
Detail of Dora Maar muse in ” Maisonette dans un jardin” by Picasso 1908. Dora Maar was a renowned Surrealist photographer and artist herself.
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4 thoughts on “Dora Maar, Surrealist & Picasso’s muse

  1. Fantastic Marina, another wonderful muse brought to life, I thoroughly enjoy reading about their journey accompanied by photos of painting from the artist inhabited by the muse itself. I must say I did not know how villainous Picasso was in his treatment of the women that loved him!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wonderful site. The creativity combined with the research is very impressive. I’m slowly going through the muses, savoring each one. Best site I’ve come across in ages!

    Like

    1. Thank you, I am pleased you are enjoying reading about my muses, I aim to be as accurate as possible, so I do thorough research. Making them is the fun part, although certainly labour intensive; But it is important to me to be faithful to their stories, shedding more light on the muses rather than the artist who paints them.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. A great muse to add to your wonderful collection Marina. Another interesting story of the muse as inspiration to an artist. Picasso’s heartless treatment can only be forgiven by featuring them in his amazing art. Thanks for sharing your creations with us.

    Liked by 1 person

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