Dora Maar (born Theodora Markovitch in 1907), is better known as a mistress of Picasso than an artist in her own right. He did many portrayals of her and labelled her the ‘weeping woman’ because he said ‘he could never see her, never imagine her, except crying’. We usually see Dora Maar through Picasso’s eyes, as his mistress the ‘weeping woman’. There’s no doubt she was depressed (see next Post) but she also produced some pretty good photographs, including several of Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ (and a photo of him working on it, above).
Her intriguing image entitled ‘Ubu Roi’ (above), is taken from a play of the same name published at the end of the previous century which was beloved by the Surrealists as it was anarchic and absurd. Maar’s photograph was exhibited at the International Surrealist Exhibition in London in 1936 and became an emblem for the movement afterwards. It also has a political message for the thirties with the rise of dictators throughout Europe. Dora Maar, like most of the Surrealists, was politically and actively left-wing. Ubu the ‘king’, the anti-hero, is a monstrous autocrat symbolized here by a young armadillo whose armour protects him from the consequences of his actions. Nobody seems sure where she acquired the creature (she kept it private). Some think it’s an embryo photographed in a specimen jar. Its baby-like features are precisely what makes it interesting. Is she saying that the Facist ego-maniacs (Hitler, Franco etc) are merely vulnerable children beneath the surface? If that is the case, is there a reference to Picasso himself? We know he was childish and petulant and incapable of loving anyone but himself. Psychoanalysis was a powerful influence on art in the first part of the 20th Century, and particularly in the Surrealist movement of the thirties.