Henriette Theodora Markovitch, was born in Paris but was raised in Argentina, where her father, an architect of Croatian origin who had settled in France, had obtained several commissions.
Back in Paris in 1926, the young woman, who was destined to become a painter, enrolled in the studio of André Lhote in Montparnasse.
On the advice of her friend, the art critic Marcel Zahar, she also enrolled in the Paris School of Photography. It is in this field that she will become known, using photography in her plastic research, in the heart of the surrealist movement.
The name of Dora Maar is inextricably linked to that of the most famous painter of the twentieth century. For having been for nearly ten years his muse, his lover, she is forever in the collective imagination "the woman who cries", that Picasso has painted many times.
Dora Maar is also in the shadow of another myth: Man Ray, whose assistant she was for some time. However, after sharing a studio with Pierre Kefer between 1930 and 1934, she was able to found her own photography studio, 29 rue Astorg.
Making advertising photography and nudes for magazines of charm, in her studio, she also devotes herself to formal and experimental research, to the practice of an artistic photography where she proves to be particularly talented and daring. Under the pseudonym of Dora Maar, she composed strange photomontages, sometimes erotic, sometimes poetic, dreamlike and disturbing, works with latent sensuality that made her one of the best ambassadors of the surrealist movement.
Involved in a group of activists of the extreme left, she met the writer Georges Bataille, whose mistress she remained for a time and signed with him the manifesto of Contre-Attaque, a political tract proclaiming the union of struggle of revolutionary intellectuals around Bataille and Breton, in October 1935.
It was then that she was about to meet Picasso. At the café des Deux Magots, Paul Éluard depicts her, dangerously passionate, who is amused to plant a penknife on the table between his fingers when the Minotaur sees her. Years of stormy passion follow.
Dora Maar documented through her photographs the work of the painter harnessed to the great machine of Guernica in 1937 and these works showing the successive states of the work serve to advance the painting.
Both also experiment with curiosity a thousand and one formal facets of photography: engraving on film, photograms, "clichés-verre" ...
Encouraged by Picasso, Dora Maar also returned to painting, exploring the Cubist vein, inevitably under the influence of the master.
The separation with Picasso is a brutal jolt that Dora Maar seems never to recover. She will even be interned for a time.
She continued to paint, however, landscapes, evocations that meet the abstraction and a certain mysticism in which she ended up taking refuge.
She decided to divide her time between Paris and Ménerbes where she ended up living in poverty and reclusion. Marcel Fleiss, who met her towards the end of her life, described her Parisian apartment as "the den of a tramp". She voluntarily cut herself off from all her friends and openly displayed anti-Semitic and homophobic ideas.
She is a lonely woman who leaves this world at the end of the 1990s, with her contradictions, the flashes of youth and the shadowy side of this old woman, the one on whom the disconsolate lover, inconsolable, has laid her burden. She is buried in the communal cemetery of Clamart where only five people follow the procession.
Her painted work remained almost unknown, until a posthumous auction organized in 1999, which made it possible to discover the extent of her plastic research, which had never left her studio.
In 2019, the Centre Pompidou, which owns a large body of his photographic production, will devote a major retrospective to her, thus revealing his multiple talents to the general public.