Something tends to happen when a famous artist gets involved with an interesting woman; that woman’s life always seems to get summed up in relationship to him. No matter what she’s accomplished up to that point, it seems to get washed out of focus. When Dora Maar met Picasso, she was an accomplished photographer and artist in her own right but I’m willing to bet you know her as Picasso’s Weeping Woman, who broke down irretrievably when he left her for Francoise Gilot.
Dora’s photographs are provocative and inventive. Some of the photos she took of her favorite model, Assia are reminiscent to Man Ray’s (masked ones) and have a wonderful sensual quality. This one is my personal favorite.
But it’s her pictures of Nusch Eluard, which prove she had an artist’s eye for capturing her subject beautifully. Nusch was the wife of Dora’s friend, the poet Paul Eluard. The first time Paul saw his future wife, she was 17 and practicing cartwheels (she was a performer /traveling acrobat) at the Grand Guignol.
Nusch was frail with lovely delicate features and Dora’s photographs illuminated her ethereal beauty skillfully. Dora overlaid this photo with a spider’s web and titled it, “The Years Lie in Wait for You” which proved sadly prophetic when Nusch died suddenly at age 40. Her husband Paul wrote the poem “Le Temps deborde” as he dealt with his grief over losing her:
Dead seen Nusch unseen harsher than thirst
Than hunger to my worn body
Mask of snow on the earth and under
Source of tears in the night blindman’s mask
My past dissolves I give way to silence
We shall not grow old together
This is the day
Too many: time spills over
Photograph of Dora Maar by Man Ray
Photographs of Assia / Nusch by Dora Maar
“Le Temps Deborde” by Paul Eluard 1946