• Pablo Picasso and Dora Maar illustration

The great lovers series: Pablo Picasso & Dora Maar

He was one of the most influential creatives of the 20th century; she was the French-Croatian photographer who, after their turbulent decade-long affair ended, found solace in semi-monastic life. In our latest edition of Great Lovers, find out more about this passionate and artistic union...


1. A TEN-YEAR AFFAIR BEGAN WITH BLOODSHED...

He was 54; she just 28. He was separated from his first wife and had just fathered a child with his mistress; Dora was tall, strikingly beautiful, fluent in Spanish and already a gifted painter, photographer and poet. During their introduction at the Parisian cafe Les Deux Magots - a favourite hangout for the literati - Dora cut herself on a sharp knife. So bewitched was Picasso that he kept her stained gloves as a reminder of their first meeting.


2. THE ARTIST'S MODEL BECOMES A LOVER

Following this initial encounter, Dora quickly took on the role of Picasso's most important muse. In 1937 she moved to an apartment near his Parisian studio and over the following year would be permitted entry - on invitation only - in order to sit for what would become some of Picasso's most recognisable and important works - The Weeping Woman, Dora Maar Seated and Guernica. Dora soon took on another role - one of Picasso's lover.


3. A WOMAN LIVING IN THE SHADOWS

Despite being a successful artist in her own right, Dora experienced depression and self-criticism. Her illness was exacerbated by living in the shadows of the larger than life personality that was Pablo Picasso. Within a few years, Dora had another reason to feel sad and desperate - her great love had taken yet another new, much younger mistress. He'd done this before - Dora was rumoured to have once wrestled with another woman in Picasso's studio, insisting that the artist choose between them. But this time, it was serious...


4. THE OTHER WOMAN

Though her lover was technically still married to a Russian ballerina, Dora was devastated to learn in 1943 that Picasso was in love with another woman, Francoise Gilot, who was expecting the first of their two children together and would remain Picasso's foremost lover for nine years. He is reported to have told his new mistress that "Woman are machines for suffering [and] for me there are only two kinds of women: Goddesses and doormats!" Dora, he believed, fell into the latter category and in his portraits of her she is often depicted as crying and despairing. Despite the betrayal, Dora remained in the sidelines until 1946, by which point she had been driven almost mad with jealousy.


5. A DESCENT INTO MADNESS

Following their split, Maar's depressing descended into a complete breakdown. While Picasso continued his affair with her younger nemesis, Dora underwent three weeks of electroshock therapy in a psychiatric hospital and continued to receive psychotherapy for many years. She continued to live in the house Picasso gave her, but having lost her great love, she turned to religion, renouncing her ties to the Surrealism movement and becoming a devout Roman Catholic. So all-encompassing was their affair that Dora is rumoured to have said: "After Picasso, only God."


6. A HUNDRED MILLION DOLLAR LEGACY

When she died at the age of 89, Dora had already outlived her former lover by 24 years. But their romance lived on in the art they'd inspired, with Picasso's Dora Maar With Cat fetching over $95 million at auction, making it one of the world's most expensive paintings.


Image: From the Sky Arts series Artists In Love.


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Author: Rebecca

Rebecca lives in London with her husband, daughter and dachshund. She hopes her dating blogs for Flame Introductions will inspire you to seek out the best London and UK locations for brilliant dates, and discover some tips along the way to help you find your perfect partner.