For our first session of the 2014-2015 season of the Reading Club of the Museu Picasso, we have counted on the presence of Victòria Combalia, who has joined us to talk about the book and the research she has dedicated to Dora Maar.
The book of Combalia is important for two reasons, on the least: because it dismantles, with an extraordinary degree of detail, the inertias and prejudices with which the stories of Picasso’s lovers have tended to be written, often portraying them as mere puppets, counterpoints or, in one of its most disastrous formulations (and, why not say so, most sexist), as a ‘footnote’ in the life of the great genius.
Dora Maar is not a mere added character or a landscape in front of which, in the foreground, the activity of Picasso occurs: she is a top level interlocutor for the artist. This is the second interesting gesture of the work of Combalia: that of showing Dora Maar in all her dimensions – a first class surrealist photographer, who participated in a whole series of political movements and historical aesthetics without which we wouldn’t be able to fully think about the first half of the 20th century, unyielding to the possibility of having loved, and having been loved by Picasso. About this “lady that cries” and to whom it was not usual to ask why she cries, Combalia also poses the question if crying was the most important thing that she did. In this sense, the findings of Combalia regarding the relation of Maar with Bataille (and their reciprocal influence) or the not evident presence of Maar in certain inflections of Picasso’s work, are rather illuminating. Particularly ominous is the destiny of a down-and-out Dora Maar, undergoing therapy, marked by an unfortunate ending of the contact with the artist. The meeting up with Lacan is here for those interested in this network of relations that rarely happen in history in the major sense, often made up of exploits and turning points.
In this sense, the passing of images that Combalia offered us has been a privilege, not only in terms of the access to a photographic work of undeniable interest (Maar’s snapshots in Barcelona deserve as much attention as the most well-known surrealist montages) but also because of how they respond to the way most of us have gotten closer to Dora Maar: not as an active, sensitive, visionary subject, but as a person who is looked at, always subject to whatever the others see. In this sense, the session has had a strange, restorative and necessary intimacy.
In the next session of the Reading Club, this Thursday November 13, we will talk with Malen Gual, curator of the collection, about proses by the writer Ramon Reventós, a friend of Picasso’s youth, illustrated by Picasso. Here you can read the selected texts.