Venice - Reviews

Victoria Combalía: Dora Maar. Despite Picasso

3 years ago

An enchanting exhibition of photographs by Dora Maar, curated by Victoria Combalía, is held until the 14th of July at Palazzo Fortuny, in Venice. This is not only the first exhibition by Dora Maar in Italy, but it also sheds new light on the impressive work of a woman of singular talent. Often remembered mainly for her passionate relation with Picasso, Dora Maar was also an extraordinary artist and a great photographer. Victoria Combalía recently published an interesting book entitled Dora Maar. Más allá de Picasso as a result of more than twenty years of research work and interviews.

The curator states that “Palazzo Fortuny is the perfect location to show and promote the work of this multi-faceted artist, an enigmatic sphinx often unfairly remembered only for her relationship with one of the most prominent artist of our age”. Dora Maar. Despite Picasso, is the perfect title to express the important message that the curator wants to communicate to the public of the exhibition: Dora Maar’s value stands on the extraordinariness of a woman with a special sensitivity and an incredible talent, an outstanding photographer, an important member of the Surrealist group, and a political activist fighting for the rights of the oppressed people. She was also the lover of Pablo Picasso and George Bataille, and friend of other prominent artists and intellectuals such as Paul Éluard, the brothers Jacques and Pierre Prévert, Luis Buñuel, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Man Ray, Jean Cocteau, Balthus, Lucian Freud and André Breton.

In 1945, she had a psychological crisis and started psychoanalytic treatment with Jacques Lacan. After being abandoned by Picasso, she devoted herself mainly to painting and religion. Combalía had the opportunity to interview Dora Maar by phone in 1993, and tells: “Although the great suffering she had been through, I believe that she had no hard feelings against Picasso. She admired his work. She was an enigmatic and tormented personality, but also a very strong woman”.

Dora Maar (Paris, 1907-1997) was the daughter of a famous Croatian architect and a French woman. She grew up in both Buenos Aires and Paris. She frequented the École et Ateliers D’Arts Décoratifs and the Académie André Lhote before being persuaded, by critic Marcel Zahar, to study photography at the École de Photographie de la Ville de Paris. Her photographic career was short, but intense: from 1931 to 1937. In 1930 she began to work as an assistant to Harry Ossip Meerson, in whose studio she met Brassaï, and then she formed a partnership with Pierre Kéfer.

In her photographic works, Dora Maar shows a great interest in the marginal fringes of society, in the world of childhood, and in daily street life. Her favourite themes were: looks and glances, blindness and eyes closed in trance, and sleep. In this, she was probably influenced by the Surrealist leitmotiv of the “eyes closed”. Closing the eyes is a way of closing the doors to the outside world and being able to enter the unconscious and oneiric sphere of being, as expressed by André Breton in his ‘Le judgment originel’.

Dora Maar’s exhibition at Palazzo Fortuny is comprised of over 100 works, including some unpublished works of great interest.

Teresa Sartore

  • Installation view at Museo Fortuny. Photo by Teresa Sartore Installation view at Museo Fortuny. Photo by Teresa Sartore
  • Victoria Combalia. Photo by Teresa Sartore Victoria Combalia. Photo by Teresa Sartore