Dora Maar was born in Paris, France, on November 22, 1907. When she was 19, she began pursuing the artistic life, studying painting and photography. Her work had begun garnering attention when she met Pablo Picasso, and her life would never be the same. Living in the shadow of the greatest artist of her time, Maar suffered from self-doubt and depression through a nine-year romantic affair with Picasso. As World War II ravaged Europe, Maar found herself left behind by Picasso, and she subsequently suffered a nervous breakdown. Upon recovery, she pursued art and religion with equal verve until her death in 1997.
Dora Maar was born Henriette Théodora Markovitch in Paris, France, on November 22, 1907. Her father was a successful architect, and his job forced Maar and the rest of her family to move to Buenos Aires, Argentina, when Maar was 3 years old. In school, she spoke both Spanish and French fluently, learning to read English texts as well.
In 1926, when she was 19, Maar and her family moved back to Paris, where she enrolled in photography school and then at the Académie Julian. She worked on both painting and photography, but she garnered more attention for the latter. Thusly, by the mid-1930s, she was focusing her energies on photography. (She also shortened her name to Dora Maar during this period).
Dora Maar, Pablo Picasso and Lee Miller
Maar would experience one of the defining moments of her life in late 1935, when, on the set of the Jean Renoir film Le Crime de Monsieur Lange, she met artist PabloPicasso.
The first meeting didn't quite hint at what was to come, but the second, in 1936 at Les Deux Magots, a St.-Germain-des-Prés cafe, led to a lasting romantic affair. Soon after this meeting, Maar moved to an apartment around the corner from Picasso's studio (though she wasn't allowed to enter it without an invitation). Between 1936 and 1937, Picasso and Maar collaborated on certain artistic endeavors, and he regularly painted portraits of her, including "Weeping Woman" (1937) and "Dora Maar Seated" (1937). Maar herself became part of the Surrealist movement of the time, which Picasso had spearheaded, and had her first photography exhibition at the Galerie de Beaune in Paris in 1937.
Despite her torrid and artistic affair with Picasso and the success of her own works, Maar suffered bouts of despair, depression and self-criticism—possibly exacerbated by living in the very large shadow of the man with whom she was sharing her life.
Dora Maar with a Crown of Flowers
In May 1943, Picasso met a woman named Françoise Gilot, who was 20 years younger than Maar and 40 years younger than Picasso, and the pair embarked upon a love affair. Picasso and Maar continued to see each other until 1946, but after 1943, the writing was on the wall. After the pair split for good, Maar sank deeper into depression and began living a more secluded life.
Maar's depression soon transformed into a full-blown nervous breakdown, and she subsequently underwent three weeks of electroshock therapy in a psychiatric hospital. From there, Maar fell under the care of psychiatrist Jacques Lacan, with whom she underwent years of analysis, and slowly began to recover her former self. She recovered in part by embracing religion (and renouncing all ties to her Surrealist past), eventually deciding on the Roman Catholic Church. She would remain devout until her death.
Maar continued on with her two remaining interests—art and religion—until July 16, 1997, when she died at the age of 89 in Paris, France. Maar outlived Picasso by 24 years, and nine years after her death, Picasso's "Dora Maar au Chat" ("Dora Maar with Cat") was auctioned for $95.2 million, making it one of the world's most expensive paintings sold at auction.