Dora Maar, Tate Modern - ★★★★ - Until March 15, 2020

Untitled (Hand-Shell), 1934 by Dora Maar.

Long before Madonna, Dora Maar was re-inventing herself. She was part of the avant-garde, a Surrealist and a left-wing activist when these were bold moves for a woman. In a male dominated world, she succeeded in making a name for herself both figuratively and literally, having been born Henriette Theodora Markovitch. Her provocative photographs and (especially) photomontages became icons of Surrealism: Untitled (Hand-Shell) (1934) is a famous example. She originally trained as a painter and there are striking examples of her canvases on display in this exhibition, but editorial and advertising photography offered financial stability. She followed that path while documenting urban street life, often revealing her sharp eye for the absurd. However, until recently the elephant in the room has been her association with more famous artists, above all Picasso. Sensibly, Tate Modern has not skirted around this fact. Instead they have presented her working relationship with the Spaniard, and it is clear she was no mere muse or model. Maar actively collaborated with Picasso in making innovative prints fusing photography and painting. She photographed the making of Guernica, and it was she who gave him the idea for its light bulb motif. Intriguingly, her own work, The Conversation (1937) also has a light hanging above two women: Maar herself and Marie-Thérèse Walter, Picasso’s former lover. In turn, this first UK retrospective quite wonderfully illuminates Maar's work. This is a definitive look at the artist that is long overdue and it is very welcome!

Reviewed by A.L.

 Our Score:  ☆☆☆☆ 

WHEN, WHERE, GETTING THERE:
Until March 15, 2020
Sun - Thu: 10 am - 4:30 pm
Fri & Sat: 10 am - 8:30 pm
Tate Modern
Nearest tube: Waterloo
https://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/dora-maar

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