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  • Provenance

    The Estate of Dora Maar
    Les Photographies de Dora Maar, Piasa, Drouot, 19 November 1999, lot 46
    Bloomsbury Auctions, London, 22 May 2012, lot 193

  • Catalogue Essay

    In 1927, Dora Maar pursued her love of art at the École de Photographie de la Ville de Paris and began her photographic sojourn, which would last about a decade. Despite the relative brevity of the period, Maar’s involvement in photography coincided with one of the most creative and conceptually fertile periods in European art, the birth of Surrealism. Among the leading figures in the movement were the critic André Breton, the poet Paul Éluard and the artist Man Ray, all of whom would form Maar’s social circle. Indeed, it was Éluard whom in 1936 introduced the exceptionally beautiful Maar to a man whose love for women was only surpassed by his celebrated love of art, Pablo Picasso. Undeterred by the twenty-five years that separated the two, Maar and Picasso would go on to engage in a ten-year affair whose legacy would be marked by the compelling body of work each artist left behind.

    By the time Maar met Picasso she had already established a successful career as a photographer, mostly within the commercial and advertising sectors. Her personal body of work, of which the current lot is an example, was far more complex and subversive in subject, style and technique. Photographs of Dora Maar by Man Ray dated 1936 reveal the strong dialogue between the two. In one solarized image, Maar is supine, returning the gaze of the camera, her arm wrapped around her head and her fingers pointing at her eyes—a pose she would go on to repeat in at least one other portrait by Man Ray from the same year. The emphasis on the eyes is of importance, for the Surrealists believed that sight was separate from vision. While the former reflected the world around them, the latter reflected the world within. “True vision,” Maar-biographer Mary Ann Caws writes, “is interior vision: what surrealism will call, finally, the interior model.”

    While Profile Picture with Glasses and Hat is not dated, most likely it was created at the tail end of Maar’s photographic oeuvre in the late 1930s. It was during those final years that Maar’s work became more experimental, at times scratching, manipulating or painting over her negatives. In another, possibly earlier variant of the image, Maar is seen with an oversized hat presumably painted over her head. That variant is markedly darker and less worked-over than the print offered in the current lot, which presents a higher level of contrast, more extensive level of manipulation to the negative, and the addition of three glasses crowning Maar’s head. Interestingly, the image bears similarity to a few similarly-sized gelatin silver prints taken in 1936-1937 by Pablo Picasso of Maar. Indeed, Maar’s Profile Picture with Glasses and Hat appears to echo some visual nuances found in Picasso’s portraits of her: the swirly background, the high level of contrast, the profiled pose, the wide-open eye, and the triple-oculi motif partially covering Maar’s head. Profile Picture with Glasses and Hat, therefore, in addition to providing a glimpse of Maar’s beguiling interior world, may also be a glimpse of an artistic dialogue with her famous lover.

201

Profile portrait with glasses and hat

1930s
Gelatin silver print.
11 1/4 x 8 5/8 in. (28.6 x 21.9 cm)
Credit stamp on the reverse of the mount.

Estimate
$80,000 - 120,000 

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Photographs

New York Auction 1 October