This exhibition, organized at the Alexis Pentcheff Gallery
in Marseille, presents more than one hundred and sixty original works by Dora Maar, created between the 1960s and the end of her life, during a period when, separated from Picasso with whom she lived for nearly ten years, she gradually withdrew from the world to paint and pray.
Dora Maar, who in her youth was a photographer, close to the Surrealists and the artistic avant-garde movements, devoted herself to painting on the advice of Picasso. In the secrecy of her Parisian studio or in that of her house of Ménerbes, in the Vaucluse, she creates intriguing, poetic and abstract works. Works by which she stands out and detaches herself from the hold of her former lover.
All the works in the exhibition come from the collection of Dominique de Roquemaurel-Galitzine, jewelry designer and artist, who had acquired, during the sales of the estate Dora Maar, three cartoons that she kept intact, like a treasure, on top of a closet for over twenty years. Reaching us, as a kind of time capsule, this set of works allows us to better know the painted work of the artist and to apprehend a research that she has not really stopped to carry out since her surrealist works of the 1930s.
We are pleased, after a long interruption due to difficulties related to the health context, to resume our programming at the gallery. This catalog accompanies an exhibition devoted to Dora Maar's works on paper, works, for the most part exploratory, made during a period of voluntary reclusion that lasted more than forty years. It is the result of an intense preparation and a real attachment, in the course of our research, to the character of Dora Maar. Fascinating and moving Dora Maar. We wanted to learn more about her than her legend suggested, to see beyond her most famous faces: that of the muse, photographed and painted, that of the abandoned woman, which are those that we are most often offered. Recent and important exhibitions, organized at the Centre Pompidou and then at the Tate Modern in London in 2019 and 2020, have paid homage to her, highlighting in particular the place of her work in the surrealist movement.
But do we remember that the first exhibition devoted to Dora Maar in France took place in Marseille, at the Musée de la Vieille-Charité, in the spring of 2002? It originated in a retrospective that had been held in 1995, during the artist's lifetime, at the Bancaixa Foundation in Barcelona, under the impetus of Victoria Combalia. It should have followed at the Centre Pompidou, but the unpredictable artist thwarted the established program on the pretext that the invitation to the opening was not to her liking... It was therefore only after her death that the exhibition could be shown in France, finally in Marseilles, and in the meantime, knowledge of the artist's career had been enriched, in particular thanks to the study of private documents that had been revealed by the auction of her estate.
Exactly twenty years later, the mystery of Dora Maar remains. If her photographic work is now well known (since a set consisting of 1900 of her negatives and 300 prints was acquired in 2004 by the state and is kept at the Centre Pompidou), her painted work is less known. First, because Dora Maar painted for a long time as a recluse and gradually did not admit anyone to her home, let alone her studio. Apart from that of her friend James Lord, who had access to the studio in the 1950s and then in 1969 and 1980, no other testimony, it seems, sheds light on what may have been the chronology of her production. On the other hand, because after the end of the 1950s, she no longer really exhibited in galleries, while she continued to work, however, with rigor and determination. It is thus a very solitary path that she followed, almost ascetic. Lord has often wondered about the ambivalence of the artist, who burned to be recognized and admired, while refusing to give herself up to the world. She did not particularly leave any writings or correspondence that could shed light on the evolution of her pictorial research. Finally, if her paintings, which were dispersed in the context of the sale of her studio collection, were for the most part reproduced in an auction catalog, this was not the case for the hundreds of preparatory works, works on paper and sketchbooks from the different periods, which were collected in boxes to be sold, without having been individually photographed or even inventoried beforehand. By recovering intact, more than twenty years later, one of these makeshift sets assembled at the time of the sales of Dora Maar's studio collection, we have attempted, through this catalog and before these works are definitively dispersed, to listen to what they could teach us, We have tried to learn more about Dora Maar's creative process, about the direction of her research and what seems to have governed the realization of these works on paper, which have the advantage of being more spontaneous and daring than her paintings on canvas. It seemed to us that there was more to look for, in the sum of these rediscovered works, than their apparent formal simplicity suggested; that they perhaps contained the essence of a personal research far from being devoid of interest.
Text from the exhibition catalog