A Series of Never-Before-Seen Dora Maar Photographs Will Hit the Auction Block in Paris Next Month

The artist’s estate is releasing 750 photographs from the archives.

Dora Maar sur fond végétal, c. 1936 Dora Maar (1907-1997) or Lee Miller (1907-1977)

The French auction house Artcurial will offer a series of never-before-seen photographs by the famed artist Dora Maar at auction next month. 

With pre-sale estimates ranging between €800 and €4,000 ($862–$4,312), the house will be presenting 400 lots from the artist’s estate, each accompanied with an original negative, in a sale set to take place from June 27-28 in Paris.

The newly released works unveil an important trajectory within Maar’s career. Beginning from the late 1920s through to the end of the 1940s—a significant period in Maar’s life while she was known to be in a romantic relationship with Pablo Picasso—she began a transition towards increasingly more avant garde subjects and styles. 

Nusch Éluard sur la plage de la Garoupe, Antibes, été 1936 ou 1937 Dora Maar (1907-1997). Courtesy Artcurial

Born Henriette Theodora Markovitch, the artist adopted Dora Maar as a pseudonym while enrolled at the École des Beaux-Arts and the Académie Julian on the advice of Henri Cartier-Bresson, who suggested that she shorten her name. 

Soon after her studies, Maar became close with many prominent figures from surrealist and avant-garde circles in Paris, and developed her own unique visual language, which leaned heavily into surrealism and cubism, and brought to photography developments crucial to early 20th century art history. 

The entire collection has been conserved since she died in 1997, preserved by the artist’s estate, and has been unseen until now. “The discovery of such a substantial collection of negatives and period contact prints adds considerably to our knowledge of Dora Maar’s photographic work,” Antoine Romand, an expert who studies post-war and contemporary photography, said in a statement. 

According to Bruno Jaubert, director of the Impressionist and modern art department at Artcurial, “Maar can be seen as one of the most original photographers of her day, a true pioneer of the mid 20th century.”

Mendiant Londres c. 1934 Dora Maar (1907-1997)

The collection illustrates a major body of Maar’s work that until now has remained largely unknown, including photographs and studies of Picasso, and images of major works still under production in the Cubist master’s studio, alongside numerous self-portraits, scenes of everyday life, and compositions she photographed of miniatures. 

Towards the end of her life, marked by frequent bouts with depression, she resigned herself to the Luberon region of France, where she took to painting landscapes in and around her house using the canvas to explore dark themes dominated by wind and clouds, which many believe stood in for the stormy relationships of her past. 

Though Maar is referred to most often in connection with her relationship to Picasso, the body of work now coming to light reaffirms and solidifies her place as an artist in her own right, with an incredibly unique and diverse oeuvre.

Dora Maar’s work has been offered at auction multiple times, with prices varying widely. The record for the artist at auction is $707,864, which was achieved at Sotheby’s Paris a painting of Pablo Picasso. For Maar’s photographic work, a gelatine silver print, Les années vous guettent (1936), sold for $348,949 at Christie’s in November 2015.

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