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Thursday, July 23, 2020

Finding Dora Maar An Artist, an Address Book, a Life by Brigitte Benkemoun

Dora Maar, photographed by Man Ray.

When Brigitte Benkemoun bought an address book by chance on Ebay, she was amazed to find that it was Picasso's famous mistress Dora Maar's address book.  She decided to study this strange woman through her list of friends and acquantainces to find out more about her. And what friends she had! They included Jean Cocteau, Nicolas de Stael, Max Jacob and other glittering members of the Surrealists and Cubists. Benkemoun's account is written in a rather breathless manner, but it is engaging because she includes her own thoughts and struggles to understand Dora.

Picasso first wanted to know who she was when he saw her at a club, planting a knife into a table from higher and higher distances, with blood all over her hands. A talented young photographer and artist who always wore designer clothes, Dora should have had a brilliant career, but her relationship with Picasso, who treated her dreadfully, made her embittered and anguished, and mental illness began to plague her. She turned Catholic but that didn't seem to comfort her, and she also kept a copy of Mein Kampf even though she lived through the war, and knew of the horrors of the Nazi regime. Dora was interesting but difficult to like. I found this a pretty anguished, harrowing story. I felt that Benkemoun was somewhat anti-Catholic at times, which I found annoying.

I received this ebook from NetGalley in return for an honest review.

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