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Picasso's women: Dora Maar

Main witness to the birth of the famous painting 'Guernica'

«I am Dora Maar. I lived with Picasso for eight years. They say I was the smartest of all of them».

Dora Maar (Henriette Teodora Markovitch) was born in Paris in 1907. Daughter of a Croatian architect and a French mother, she moved to Buenos Aires at the age of three. She enjoyed a privileged adolescence, filled with tennis, beach visits, dancing, and cruises. Back in Paris, she connected with surrealists and the far left. She was the lover of writer Bataille, one of the most intelligent people of those years, and also of filmmaker Chavance.

When Dora meets Picasso at the 'Les deux Magots' café, she's playfully stabbing her fingers with a little knife, drawing blood. Picasso grabs her hands and tells her that her blood is as beautiful as that of bulls in the ring. Picasso introduces himself as a poet, tells her that bulls are angels that bear horns.

Guernica and the women

Dora Maar protected Picasso throughout the entire process of creating Guernica. She was also the visual witness as she photographed all the sketches. Dora was an excellent photographer but made the mistake of wanting to become a painter. Right next to Picasso! In the midst of the painting's creation, Marie-Thérèse Walter came to visit Picasso. Dora didn't let her in. The shouts from the argument between the two women woke up the painter, who told them both to stay or both to leave.

Marie-Thérèse was now clearly the loser. Her daughter Maya explained why Picasso left her mother for Dora Maar. "We all need Salt (Dora) and Sugar (Marie-Thérèse)." For Picasso, portraying women was a way to seduce them. Many identified with his portraits, and when he stopped painting them, it was all over. Picasso never painted Marie-Thérèse again after meeting Dora.

Marie-Thérèse Walter kept clippings of Picasso's nails and hair for many years, like small pieces of the man she never wholly possessed. Maria Teresa was a victim of Picasso's abandonment, and unable to bear his absence (after Picasso had already died) she took her own life in 1977. She was the first, but not the last.

Dora and Picasso's relationship

Picasso's relationship with Dora Maar was less serene than with Marie-Thérèse Walter. The tension in the portraits he made of her was not solely due to the anxiety of the civil war. That was just a surface reading. There was more. There was a struggle between two almost equal forces, and Dora ultimately lost. However, 'Guernica', left-wing ideology, rage against fascism, first in the Spanish Civil War and later in the German occupation of Paris, brought them together. Dora never let him down. She risked her life alongside him. One day, the Nazi ambassador visited to ingratiate himself with the famous Spanish painter. Looking at a reproduction of Guernica, he asked Picasso. "Did you do this?" And Picasso, sarcastically replied, "No, you did. Yes, you."

Dora eventually lost her mind. As Picasso gradually left her for his two next lovers, almost simultaneously, Françoise Gilot and his secret lover, Genevieve Laporte, Dora entered a process of meditation and hallucinations. Mysticism took hold of her. The famous psychiatrist Dr. Lacan and friend Paul Eluard helped Dora and harshly criticised Picasso for his selfishness. Years later, Dora managed to meet with Françoise Gilot and her devastating words have passed into history. "Without Picasso there is nothing. After Picasso, all that remains is to meet God." Dora Maar died in Paris at the age of 90, in July 1997.

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