Dora Maar, at the Tate Modern, London

Dora Maar (1907-1997), an artist who is best known for her surrealist photography, was forgotten in life. Only after her death was she remembered and appreciated.

The retrospective of her work, until March 15 at the Tate Modern in London, shows much of this surrealist photography, but also something more surprising for those who do not know her so well: painting, fashion photography and advertising. Photographs that bear witness to her difficult life in Europe of the 30s.

At the beginning of the exhibition, we see photographs of the artist in her studio in Paris, surrounded by her paintings. A technique that she used to start her career and that she recovered at the end.

We see fashion portraits, full of light and shadow, and some of the photomontages she would later develop, forever associated with the surrealist movement.

Despite not having been acknowledged in life, Dora Maar started in the 30s to appear in exhibitions next to the great names of surrealism, around the world. At that time, she explored themes linked to this movement: the dream, the eyes, eroticism, the sea. Some objet trouvé (found object) can also be unseen in the exhibition.

Picasso’s famous paintings, such as The Weeping Woman, or Bust of a Woman, represent Dora Maar, the artist’s lover, in what he considered “the worst time of [his] life”. Dora Maar’s exhibition was inclusive and sadly marked by an attack from a young vandal and consequent damage to the last-mentioned work.

Picasso and Dora Maar influenced each other. Dora Maar taught Picasso the cliché verre technique. He adapted it to his Cubist style. Something very interesting is the documentation and recording of Guernica, one of Picasso’s most famous paintings, on video and in photography. This happened at Dora Maar’s studio, and is also part of the exhibition.

Almost at the end of the exhibition, it is possible to see many landscape paintings. And what is even more curious, and only discovered after the artist’s death, is that Dora Maar returned to photography at the end of her career. The visitor can see some of the photographs without a camera or frames. Again with plenty of light and shadow, there is the photography and its transformation into something unusual.

Dora Maar. Until 15 March, 2020, at the Tate Modern in London.

Joana Carmo graduated in Languages, Literatures and Cultures, having subsequently attended a postgraduate course in Art Markets and Collecting. Currently, she is a senior technician at Museu Zer0 (a digital art museum that is being installed in the interior of the municipality of Tavira) where she coordinates the Educational Service and Publics.

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