Brigette Benkeman on Dora Maar, Surrealist Photographer and Picasso’s “Weeping Woman”
This Week from the Big Table Podcast with JC Gabel
Big Table is a half-hour arts program/podcast, an exploration of art and culture as told through interviews with authors and artists, conducted and curated by writer, editor, and publisher JC Gabel and a small cast of contributors.
Brigitte Benkemoun, an investigative reporter in France, buys a vintage address book online for her partner, and soon discovers that it belonged to artist/photographer Dora Maar, Picasso’s mistress, infamous “weeping woman,” and unsung hero of the surrealist movement. Finding Dora Maar: An Artist, An Address Book, A Life is Benkemoun’s study of Maar’s legacy and later years.
From the episode:
JC: I think Dora is, at least in this country, best known today for her photography, maybe followed by some of the surrealist collages. This all happened earlier in her life, and you write in your book that Picasso steered her away from photography and towards painting, in some ways an attempt to dominate her. Do you think that this is something that ate away at her for all those years following their long relationship?
BB: I will read the sentence at the beginning of my investigation: She was Picasso’s muse and mistress; this role eclipsed the entirety of her work. Picasso didn’t want a woman to be at the same level as him, so he needed to crush her. She was a great photographer before she met him. She could be very famous now if she still remained a photographer. But living with him, she decided to stop photography and try to become a painter. And she wasn’t a great painter. But I think Picasso found it more interesting for her to become a not-very-good painter than a good photographer. Because he could crush her.
A co-production between Hat & Beard, Dublab, and Gold-Diggers in Los Angeles, Big Table is dedicated to the interviewing style and enduring memory of Studs Terkel, the Chicago oral historian, actor, activist, TV pioneer, and long-time radio host and author. You can learn more about Studs’ work here. Big Table is the first digital initiative of Invisible Republic, a nonprofit arts organization working in coordination with Future Roots, Inc.
Brigitte Benkemoun is a journalist and writer. She is the author of La petite fille sur la photo (2012) and Albert le Magnifique (2016).