cover image Finding Dora Maar: An Artist, an Address Book, a Life

Finding Dora Maar: An Artist, an Address Book, a Life

Brigitte Benkemoun, trans. from the French by Jody Gladding. Getty Publications, $24.95 (216p) ISBN 978-1-60606-659-1

French journalist Benkemoun (La Petite Fille sur la Photo) examines the life of former Picasso mistress and Weeping Woman photographer and painter Dora Maar (1907–1997) and the Parisian avant-garde movement in this exhilarating account. After Benkemoun’s husband lost his address book, he purchased another on eBay, which the author, upon receiving it, learned had belonged to Maar and contained the names and addresses for such luminaries as Balthus, Brassaï, Andre Breton, Marc Chagall, Jean Cocteau, Paul Éluard, and Jacques Lacan. What follows is a combination cultural history and detective story, with the address book’s pages being “a small keyhole through which I could peer at a world long vanished and like no other.” Over the next two years, Benkemoun obsessively researched the names and addresses to piece together Maar’s 10-year relationship with Picasso, her life during the Nazi occupation of Paris, her place among the Surrealists and avant-garde in mid-century France, and her years as a painter after her breakdown and break-up with Picasso, which led to her living out her final days as a virtual recluse. This enthralling study of Paris and its artistic avant-garde should be required reading for Surrealist and modern art lovers. (May)