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Tirza Latimer

[Markovitch, Henriette Theodora]

b Paris, Nov 22, 1907; d Paris, July 16, 1997

French photographer and painter. Maar’s father was Croatian and her mother was from La Touraine in western France. She grew up in Argentina, where her father practised architecture, and was repatriated in 1926 to study at the Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs, Ecole de Photographie and the Académie Julien in Paris. In the early 1930s she set up her first photography studio with her collaborator, Pierre Kéfer, sharing the darkroom with Georges Brassaï.

Maar was closely associated with the Surrealists in the mid-1930s, signing political tracts, taking photographs of the movement’s members and exhibiting in group exhibitions. She was seeing Georges Bataille when, in 1936, the poet Paul Eluard introduced her to Pablo Picasso at the Café Deux Magots. Picasso was apparently intrigued by her dark beauty, her edginess, her theatricality and her violence. According to Françoise Gilot: ‘She was wearing black gloves with little pink flowers appliquéd on them. She took off the gloves and picked up a long, pointed knife, which she began to drive into the table between her outstretched fingers to see how close she could come to each finger without actually cutting herself. From time to time she missed by a fraction of an inch and before she stopped playing with the knife, her hand was covered with blood’ (Gilot, pp. 85-6). Picasso, playing the scene out to its fullest, later enshrined the bloody gloves for display in his apartment. Picasso described Maar as his ‘weeping woman’ and painted her obsessively for almost a decade. She sat for portraits that included ...