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Finding Dora Maar by Brigitte Benkemoun

Finding Dora Maar (edition 2020)

by Brigitte Benkemoun (Author)

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Title:Finding Dora Maar
Authors:Brigitte Benkemoun (Author)
Info:Getty Publications (2020), 216 pages
Collections:Your library

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


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Finding Dora Maar: An Artist, an Address Book, a Life by Brigitte Benkemoun is a fascinating look at both Dora Maar's life as well as at the European art world of the mid-20th century.

This is not, strictly speaking, a biography. While there is a lot more information here about her life than was in the exhibition catalogue I recently read (which contained several essays devoted to her work with some life story included) there is a lot less than in a biography of her I also recently read. So this is about Maar, perhaps in the same way you might say the planets revolve "about" the sun. Maar is at the center of this book but not always the focus. Rather than a negative, however, this offers a more nuanced view at her life and the immediate world around her life.

The address book is the structural device but not in an A-to-Z manner. Again, this works very well. It seems to be presented in the order (exact or approximate?) that Benkemoun uncovered the information on the names in the book. So rather than time being what leads us from one incident or person to the next, it almost seems like happenstance. Yet the moving back and forth in time shows many connections and even disconnects that might be missed with a straightforward telling.

Then there is the outer "story," that of receiving the address book and researching the names and connections. Who is still around (just one person, I think), who is around who remembers Maar and/or the people in the book? Benkemoun does the legwork and we learn little tidbits along the way. It also opens some room for speculation on why a name might still be present or might be missing. Even wondering why an entry is entered as it is. This is like a treasure hunt.

If all you've read about Maar is either in relation to Picasso or in something like the recent exhibition catalogue you will learn a lot here (just ignore anyone who says different, people have their own agendas and self-images to keep up, let them). If you've read the biographies of Maar and the art history pieces that incorporate biography then there will be a lot less that is new to you. But I do think that some of the unusual juxtapositions of people and incidents will offer some new insight even if the separate pieces of information aren't new to you.

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley. ( )
  pomo58 | Feb 13, 2020 |
3.5 When her husband bids on s vintage diary on eBay, the author is surprised when it arrives. It turns out to be an address book and after some bookish detective work she traces the book back to Dora Maar.

A very unique approach to an autobiography as she uses the book as an investigative tool to explore Dora's life. Researching the people in her book and their relationship with Dora, the author pieces together Dora's struggles as well as her accomplishments. Therefore, the reader gets a thorough picture of her life. We also learn much if the history of the time. She was associated with many if the notables of the time including Sarte and Camus.

Until reading this the only thing I knew about her was that she was Picasso's muse and mistress for a time. Never knew she was a photographer before she met Picasso and also an artist herself. Her relationship with him ended badly at great cost to her mental health.

ARC from Edelweiss. ( )
  Beamis12 | Feb 5, 2020 |
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