Dora Maar has always felt like a woman in the shadows. She was known to many as a muse and a partner of one of the most famous artists of our time – Pablo Picasso. Famous for being his “weeping woman”, she has been lost in time and it isn’t until now with thanks to the Tate Gallery in London and now this book – I can start to put the meat on the bones of Maar.
This book was written after the author Brigitte Benkemoun uncovered a rare piece of art history. Her husband had lost his Hermes diary and had found a replacement online. The diary had been replenished with blank paper but what was hidden was what excited her the most – it was an address book with some rather familiar names. After further investigation the author discovered that this had belonged to the artist Dora Maar and so her journey began.
This book is a little insight into the life of Dora Maar and those that surrounded her. The names in this book are noteworthy – everyone from Breton to Brassaï, Braqu to Cocteau…the list goes on. What I truly get out of this book is discovering Maar as a person and as someone living with turbulent interiors – her mental welfare is something that comes up again and again this book.
The elephant in the room throughout this is Maar’s copy of Mein Kampf that looks like it is proudly placed in her apartment in her later years. The author decides to try and unpick this and to understand why she would own such a thing, was it a keepsake from someone dear or was she antisemitic? We never do get to the truth, but the author admits she doesn’t want to know why Maar thought the way she did.
What I would say is that Maar does still seem a bit of an enigma, this book isn’t is a tell all show all autobiography – it is a snippet, a fragment that was born from this discovery of the address book.. My only real criticism of this would be its lack of photographs with the premise of the book being on a found object – we never get to see it intimately unless we turn to Google.
If you are a Dora Maar fan then this book is definitely worth reading for the investigative twists and turns that almost feel like you are reading a piece of fiction.