In fact, it wasn't until her death in 1997 that art historians were finally able to examine Maar’s masterful body of work in full. Following her breakup with Picasso in 1946, she had begun to withdraw from public life; by the time she passed away, Maar had been largely forgotten.
Her early days in Paris, however, gave no indication of the reclusive woman she would become. Daughter to a French mother and a Croatian-born father, who was an architect, she was raised between Paris and Buenos Aires. In 1926, at age 19, Maar’s family settled in the French capital. There, she began to study art seriously—at ’s
, as well as at the École de Photographie de la Ville de Paris, the Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs, and the Académie Julian. Although she initially split her time between painting and photography, by the 1930s, she had devoted herself to the latter.
In 1931, she established herself as a professional photographer alongside young designer Pierre Kéfer. (By this time, she had changed her name—born Henriette Theodora Markovitch, she had long gone by Dora and eventually shortened Markovitch to Maar.) Together with Kéfer, she tackled a number of commercial projects, infusing the images with a healthy dose of Surrealism. In one advertisement, a bottle of Pétrole Hahn hair oil lays on its side—but instead of oil, out spills a tangle of long, wavy locks.
Soon, Maar was deeply embedded in the Parisian avant-garde. Striking and dark-haired, she modeled for both
named his surrealist gallery, Gradiva, partly in her honor; and her affair with the writer Georges Bataille, famously fixated on eroticism, sparked endless rumors.