Dora Maar by Dora Maar. Paris. Mid 30’s. Amazing expo at Pompidou, July 2019.
Dora Maar, born Henriette Dora Markowitch in Paris in 1907, was a French photographer and artist who rose to fame in the 30’s. She knew only the best players of the time. Unfairly “catalogued” as “just one” of Picasso’s many lovers, she was a talented woman with a wide range of interest from photography to painting. The expo last year gave her justice.
Model by Dora Maar, early 30’s. Maar set up a photo studio with Pierre Kiefer. I suppose it was easier for a woman then to present a “male” front. A male signature. Remember women in France did not vote until 1944-1946. The model above still represents the evolution of the time: hair cut short, a man’s jacket on a straight skirt.
Fashion photograph. Mid 30s’
Dora Maar experimented like many photographers of her time. (I venture that Man Ray was an influence. Or was it the other way round?)
The Greek figure of the three graces, Paris version. Those swimsuits were quite “osés” for the time.
Suzy Delair (2020-1917) in “Quai des orfèvres”, by Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1947. Dora Maar is featured in the movie as a plateau photographer. Suzy Delair was barely 27 at the time. I remember her as a frequent actress in French cinema of the 50’s. (Quai des orfèvres is a street on the Ile de la Cité where the French Police Judiciaire was housed until only recently. Fictitious Commissaire Maigret had his office there.
“Negative” was another frequent experiment by photographers then. (Unless otherwise stated all pictures in this post are by Dora Maar). Model? ‘Forgot, Assia or Jacqueline Lamba.
Shampoo ad. 1934.
Jean-Louis Barrault. Mid to late 30’s. Barrault (1910-1994) and his wife Madeleine Renault, were figures of the French Theatre Avant-garde for many years. They produced and played Ionesco, Beckett, Genet, Duras… Note: those pictures by Dora Maar were projected on a wall of the expo. As I saw and recognized the major French artists of the 30’s through the 60’s, I just couldn’t believe my eyes: who was this woman?
Ad for a curling iron. Model: Jannine Loris. She was Jacques Prévert’s wife. Prévert (see below) is one the greatest French poets of the 20th century.
“Your beauty. Seduction. Stay young”. Mid-late 30’s ads.
Surrealist montage. The model, Jacqueline Lamba, (1910-1993) was the wife of André Breton, the “Pope of surrealism”.
Helena Rubinstein’s apartment. 1937. Name sounds familiar? The apartment was on the Ile Saint-Louis. One of the most exclusive ‘hoods in Paris. Note the typical heavy armchairs of the time and the abundance of African art.
Gisèle de Monfreid. She was the daughter of Henri de Monfreid, a French sailor and adventurer who trafficked just about anything from the coast of Djibouti to Ethiopia to Arabia. Gisèle was brought up partly on her father’s Arab dhow and Djibouti until she came back to Paris and became part of the Paris scene. She was born in 1914, and is still alive (and well I hope) at 106 years young. She wrote a book “My secrets of the red sea” on her childhood there. I still have her father’s books on my shelves. Must look for hers next time I roam the bookboxes along the Seine. (When? Oh! When?)
Change of venue. “Cantine ouvrière” (Workman’s lunch place) “Meals for 6 Francs 50”. Paris 1933.
André Breton, the leader of Surrealism. ‘Met Trotsky, Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo on his trip to Mexico.
Dolores Miró, (1930-2004) was the only daughter of Catalan artist Joan Miró. (I would need to put links on all names. Sorry. You’re on your own) 😉
Street musicians, Barcelona, 1933. The young Spanish Republic was not yet in the midst of the civil war. Many photographers went to Spain to report on the Republic. Frank Capa or Hemingway would go a little later. Dora Maar was no exception.
Dora Maar, 1936, by Man Ray (aka Emmanuel Radnitsky). Didn’t know Man Ray’s real name. (The things you learn with research.) He was one the greatest photographers of the 20th century. This picture is a perfect example of surrealist photography. And also an example of how artists of the time could exchange roles. Artist one day, model the next.
Jean Cocteau (1889-1963), ever the “Dandy”, was a poet, playwright, writer, sketcher multifaceted artist. Openly gay, which wasn’t an issue at the time, he wrote plays and then directed movies, the most famous being Orpheus in 1960. He died the same day as his friend Edith Piaf. All newspapers and magazines had already printed their cover with pictures of Piaf. There is no “Cocteau special issue.”
Leonor Fini in 1936. Fini was born in Buenos Aires in 1908. died in Paris in 1996. She was a major surrealist painter. With a unique style few have equaled, except maybe for Leonora Carrington. I love her work very much. Have two books on her paintings and sketches. I remember Paris, in the early 70’s, when you could buy a litho of hers for close to “nothing”. My pocket money did not amount to “enough”. Never convinced my parents to buy one. Darn. Do look her up.
Jacques Prévert as a young man. (I’ve always “known” him “old”). Mid 30’s. Prévert (1900-1977) was a major poet and screenwriter. Yves Montand sang many of his songs, particularly “Les feuilles mortes” (Autumn leaves). One of his poems will always remind me Senior High at the French Lycée in Addis-Abeba. End-of-year show. We had to learn – and present – acts. A friend of mine learnt and told this one:
“Il pleuvait sans cesse sur Brest ce jour-là…”
(Remember Barbara/it rained endlessly on Brest that day)
Giacometti (1901-1966) was a Swiss sculptor. His slim – often walking – sculptures are a unique contribution to Art. Another of Dora Maar’s friends. (To be continued…)
As I was putting this post together, I thought how much I would have loved to be at a dinner at Dora Maar’s place. Follow the conversation of all those incredible talents. I’d just wait at the table. Standing in the back. Listening. Hell! I’d even wash the dishes.