Dora Maar: Silence 1934; The Years Lie in Wait for You 1935;

Hand in Shell 1936; Double Portrait 1936

 

‘The Weeping Woman’: Part 2

Prior to meeting Picasso, Dora Maar modeled for the experimental photographer Man Ray – he did the famous photos of her with the intrusive elegant hands (for which she was famed), often including a miniature model of them. It is said that Picasso fell for her when she was stabbing a penknife between her fingers (obviously a type for self harm against her most valued asset), at the Cafe Les Deux Magots. She nicked her finger and it bled and Picasso took the blood-stained glove home as a momento.
But Dora was a competent and well trained photographer in her own right. She took journalistic photographs during the Great Depression and the Spanish Civil War (which didn’t help her own state of mind), and photographed Picasso’s famous ‘Guernica’ but her most fascinating works are the Surrealist ones of the mid-thirties which have a strong autobiographical undertone.
‘Silence’, ‘The Years Lie in Wait for You’ and ‘Hand in Shell’ all have a feeling of entrapment as though her destiny has already been decided. All are typically Surrealist with their strange juxtapositions, eerie and threatening atmospheres and collage effect. For me, they make me want to cry along with the ‘weeping woman’. Particularly the latter in which one senses the limp, lifeless hand which could have achieved so much, is somehow anesthetized. Worse than a slow directionless snail, it has no momentum at all.
Dora gave up photographic work under pressure from Picasso (he said that all photographers were painters waiting to be released) and she took up painting. (‘I was not Picasso’s mistress, he was just my master’ she is purported to have said). She readily retired to Vaucluse when he bought her a house there in the forties, after she suffered a mental breakdown. It is easy and fashionable, to blame Picasso for everything, but the truth is she was a person who didn’t believe in her own creative talent and resigned herself to solitude too easily. Though she did some colourful landscape paintings in oil in later life, (you can google them if you want to have a look), to me they seem as despairing and empty as her photos.