Trove of Never-Before-Seen Photographs by Surrealist Artist Dora Maar Heads to Auction in Paris

A trove of 750 photographs by French photographer Dora Maar, known for being one of Pablo Picasso’s primary muses, will be offered for sale from her estate next month by a Parisian auction house.

The group of images, produced between the 1920s and 1940s, have not previously been seen by the public.

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The majority of the photographs were taken during the decade that Maar, who died in 1997, spent with the Spanish painter. Subjects in the photographs range from anonymous figures captured in Parisian streets to artists and creatives who ran in the same avant-garde circles. The grouping, which will be sold during two live auctions on June 27 and 28 at Artcurial in Paris is expected to fetch €700,000–€800,000 ($880,000–$1 million).

Until recently, Maar was little known to the general public for her own art, long having been remembered by many for being one of Picasso’s jilted ex-lovers—one among a handful of women, including Marie-Thérèse Walter and Francois Gilot—and for being the main subject of his famed 1937 series “Weeping Woman.”

Maar’s reputation changed when a 2019 survey of her work at the Centre Pompidou, which traveled to the Tate Modern in London and the Getty Center in Los Angeles, brought the artist into a new light.

Since the late 1990s, the group of negatives and contact sheets that will be offered for sale had remained in a box and put aside with Maar’s personal effects, which were inherited by her descendants, who are French and Croatian.

“Nobody paid any attention to them and they remained stored without being seen until recently, after the recent exhibitions and retrospectives on the artist,” Antoine Romand, a photography specialist at Artcurial told ARTnews via email. Previous sales in 1988 and 1999 of paintings and photographs from Maar’s estate were held in Paris.

A representative for Artcurial declined to specify the reason for the heirs’ decision to sell a portion of Maar’s archive.

Highlights from the archival collection include two portraits of Picasso seated outside, taken in 1936 and 1937 respectively. Other black-and-white images depicting artist Nusch Éluard topless at a beach in Antibes and scenes of street life in Paris and London will be among the lots offered in the sale. Each are expected to sell for prices between €1,500 and €3,500 ($1,600 to $3,800).

Across her oeuvre, Maar produced fashion photographs, advertising campaigns, studio portraits, street scenes, documentary images and Surrealist photomontages, but she has also been considered as a collaborator in documenting Picasso’s famed wartime 1937 opus, Guernica, inspired by the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War.

Born in Paris, Maar spent her childhood in Buenos Aires, eventually returning to the French capital in the 1920s to study photography. She would later go on to photograph the Great Depression Era throughout European cities and and opened her own photography studio in Paris by the early 1930s before meeting Picasso.

The sale comes as interest in under-recognized players in the Surrealist art movement surges. The traveling show “Surrealism Beyond Borders,” now on view at Tate Modern in London, takes a global view of the movement and features Maar’s work. Meanwhile, Maar’s career has been reconsidered as scholars explore the gender politics in artist-muse relationships.


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