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Artists and Their Muses: Pablo Picasso and Dora Maar

Pablo Picasso and Dora Maar are one of the most famous and influential couples in art history.

Dora Maar, a photographer and artist, was known for her experiments in photography and collage. The daughter of a Catholic Frenchwoman and a Croatian architect, she spent nearly 20 years living in Argentina due to her father's work.

Upon returning to Paris, Maar studied painting and decorative arts. By the age of 25, she had already established a successful studio. She subsequently opened a personal studio where she created her most unconventional photo montages. Among her most famous works is "Pere Ubu," depicting a strange, inhuman creature resembling an armadillo embryo. Maar deliberately kept the creature's identity undisclosed to maintain its mystery.

Maar encountered Pablo Picasso a year before the onset of the Spanish Civil War. While her name was known among photography enthusiasts and fashion magazine readers, Picasso was then married to Olga Zhoilova and had a young mistress, Marie-Therese Walter. Maar, 26 years Picasso's junior, captivated his attention with her eccentricities and her excellent command of Spanish. Picasso fell deeply in love with Maar, making her a significant figure in his unique world—a principal muse and source of inspiration. Their eight-year companionship witnessed Picasso creating many of his masterpieces, including portraits of Maar. She documented the creative evolution of "Guernica," an absolute innovation for its time.

Their relationship was complicated: Maar struggled with depression and endured emotional and physical mistreatment from Picasso. These challenges influenced her artistic output and mental well-being.

In 1944, Picasso and Maar terminated their tumultuous relationship. Subsequently, Maar began to experience bouts of instability, leading to her admission to a psychiatric institution. There, she underwent electroconvulsive therapy and harsh treatments. With the intervention of poet Paul Eluard, who sought Picasso's help, Maar managed to leave the hospital. She eventually recovered, finding solace in Catholic mysticism, which led to her famous phrase: "After Picasso, only God." She dedicated herself to painting but never achieved the level of fame her former partner did.

The 1996 film "Living Life with Picasso," directed by James Ivory, featured Julianne Moore portraying Dora Maar. On July 16, 1997, at the age of 89, Dora Maar passed away and was laid to rest in the Bois-Tardier cemetery in Clamart.