Dora Maar (1907 – 1997)
Dora Maar (1907 – 1997) was an acclaimed painter, poet and photographer who was an integral figure in the Surrealist art movement. After studying in Paris in the late 1920s, Dora worked in a range of fields including fine art, commercial fashion, advertising, and social documentary photography. Regardless of genre, Dora brought a highly creative and often subversive approach to her work.
While most of the photographers of Dora’s time were occupied with making faithful reproductions of the material world, Dora was blending the technology of photography with the abstract possibilities of painting to trail-blaze the technique of photomontage. First explored by Dadaists including Hannah Höch, this new form of collage – made through the manipulation of photographic images – opened up a new modality to communicate ideas that may not be possible through photography alone. In Dora’s lifetime and beyond, the technique became an important tool for both conveying and challenging philosophical and political ideas and has been widely used by activist artists such as Martha Rosler.
Throughout the 1930s, Dora worked prolifically in photography. Works including The Pretender (1936), which shows an awkwardly posed boy in an inverted vaulted building, and A Portrait of Ubu (1936), a tightly cropped anthropomorphic portrait of an armadillo foetus, were shown in major Surrealist art exhibitions drawing critical acclaim. Before turning back to painting herself, Dora famously inspired and documented the work of Pablo Picasso’s Guernica. Dora is only recently receiving the attention her art and legacy deserve, thanks in part to the Tate Modern’s 2019 / 2020 retrospective of her work.