Dora Maar: Behind the Lens 

Amar Gallery (London), Jun-Aug/24

Amar Gallery’s Islington location was open between 2017 and 2019, this month it has reopened its doors in Fitzrovia with Dora Maar: Behind the Lens. The exhibition showcases a unique selection (bought recently by the artist’s estate) of photograms and photographs from her time living with Picasso. It also promotes  the theatrical production: Maar, Dora, which will be performing at the Camden Fringe in August.

Amar, an activist art gallery promoting overlooked  female, minority, and LGBT+ artists is looking to re-establish Maar as a pioneering surrealist artist in her own right. Freeing her from the fame of being Picasso’s “weeping woman”.

Installation view, Dora Maar, 2024, Amar Gallery

Born Henriette Théodora Markovitch, Dora Maar (1907-1997) was raised between Buenos Aires and Paris, studying photography, decorative arts and painting. Working on commissions and commercial basis, Maar was one of the first women photographers to co-run a studio in Paris, successfully in both artistic and advertisement work.

1920s was an exciting moment for commercial photography, due to the increasing numbers of advertising magazine editors and new brands commissioning inventive photography instead of  hand-drawn illustrations.

Installation view, Dora Maar, 2024, Amar Gallery

Dora Maar knowledge of Surrealist techniques  earned her work for beauty projects designed to promote the idea of the New Woman as independent, athletic and sexy. Women’s role in Surrealism redefined the erotic portrayal of their bodies by focusing on their own perspectives of liberation, oppression, imagination, transformation, and sensuality. Being Picasso’s lover and muse veiled her artistic talent, which extended beyond photography to include poetry and painting.

Dora Maar: Behind the Lens shows unseen surrealist photograms and intimate photographs from her time with Picasso,  two portraits of him from the 1930s and another documenting the creation of Guernica, in his studio. 

Commissioned by the journal Cahiers d’art, Maar’s  eight pictures show the evolution of the masterpiece: Guernica and its strong connection with photography. Maar, left-wing political views influenced Picasso to be more adventurous and political in his work. 

Installation view, Dora Maar, 2024, Amar Gallery

Her most memorable creations are photomontages but she could produce high end fashion photographs and at the same time street scenes politically charged images, showing her ability to adapt to circumstances but always true to her beliefs.

After her separation from Picasso, Dora Maar dedicate herself to the Catholic religion but later when she returned to photography she explored direct gestural manipulation of the negative, creating work that is entirely abstract. A grupo of these striking abstract work can be seen at Dora Maar: Behind the Lens.

Maria Donato for London Art Walk
July 2024