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

Posted June 23, 2020 by Stephanie in Uncategorized / 10 Comments

Title: Finding Dora Maar: An Artist, an Address Book, a Life
Author: Brigitte Benkemoun
Translator: Jody Gladding
Publication: May 19th 2020 by Getty Publications
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography, History
Purchase it on: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Google Play
Rating: 4/5

In search of a replacement for his lost Hermès agenda, Brigitte Benkemoun’s husband buys a vintage diary on eBay. When it arrives, she opens it and finds inside private notes dating back to 1951—twenty pages of phone numbers and addresses for Balthus, Brassaï, André Breton, Jean Cocteau, Paul Éluard, Leonor Fini, Jacqueline Lamba, and other artistic luminaries of the European avant-garde.

After realizing that the address book belonged to Dora Maar—Picasso’s famous “Weeping Woman” and a brilliant artist in her own right—Benkemoun embarks on a two-year voyage of discovery to learn more about this provocative, passionate, and enigmatic woman, and the role that each of these figures played in her life.

Longlisted for the prestigious literary award Prix Renaudot, Finding Dora Maar is a fascinating and breathtaking portrait of the artist.

This work received support from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States through their publishing assistance program.

Finding Dora Maar was one of those perfect ‘right up my alley’ examples. Most people know that I love history but I also am a big lover of art and have been intrigued by artists and their lives from the early to middle 20th century. So I’m not really surprised that I ended up loving it. It really was a gem of a book.

This book is a biography written in the most unique way. To give a little more background about this book, it all started when the author’s husband buys a vintage diary on eBay. When it arrives and Brigitte Benkemoun opens it she discovers that after some serious sleuthing that it was used as an address book and had once belonged to Dora Maar, muse and mistress Pablo Picasso and known as the “Weeping Woman”. Isn’t this amazing? I mean, just imagine buying something on eBay and then it turns out to have belonged to someone this intriguing and mysterious. I can only dream of that.

Of course Dora Maar wasn’t just the muse and mistress of Picasso. I must admit, though, that her name wasn’t one I was familiar with. But Dora was an amazing artist, in her own right. She was a photographer and also a painter. When I was reading this book I felt compelled to look up her own work and I must say that she was brilliant. Her photographs as well as her paintings are something special indeed.

Each chapter in the book goes through several of the names that were listed in the address book and how this person was connected to Dora and what their relationship was like. She wasn’t always likable as a person but her personality and flaws is just what intrigued me about her. I will never forget the name Dora Maar now.

Overall, Finding Dora Maar: An Artist, an Address Book, a Life by Brigitte Benkemoun and translated into English by Jody Gladding was one of the most surprising and enjoyable nonfictions that I’ve read this year. I would very highly recommend it!

Some pictures related to the book:
Portrait of Dora Maar by Man Ray
The Weeping Woman, 1937 by Pablo Picasso
Picasso working on “Guernica,” 1937. Photograph by Dora Maar
“Self-portrait with Fan,” 1930. Photograph by Dora Maar
Nature morte à la coupe de fruit. Painting by Dora Maar

10 responses to “Finding Dora Maar: An Artist, an Address Book, a Life by Brigitte Benkemoun

  1. verushka

    She sounds fascinating!! And so talented! I love that something so unexpected led to this book!

    • I would love something like that to happen to me but I know I would’ve never been able to find out so much about the address book as the author did.

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