The erotic, the exaggerated and the elegant are interwoven in all the accounts of Dora Maar’s meeting with Picasso in 1936. Here is Jean-Paul Crespelle’s version of the tale. Picasso is with his friend Paul Eluard at the Cafè des Deux Magots, where he notices a beautiful, intense-faced brunette seated at a neighbouring table:
The young woman’s serious face, lit up by pale blue eyes which looked all the paler because of her thick eyebrows; a sensitive uneasy face, with light and shade passing alternatively over it. She kept driving a small pointed penknife between her fingers into the wood of the table. Sometimes she missed and a drop of blood appeared between the roses embroidered on the black gloves. Picasso would ask Dora to give him the gloves and would lock them up in the show case he kept for his mementos.
The drama was set up: the short painter was deeply moved by a tall, dark, powerfully mysterious woman given to strange acts. According to some accounts, Picasso left town immediately after meeting Dora – the Spanish genius fleeing the young French photographer with her black-haired beauty and disturbing behaviour, who speaks his language and dares to play with violence. In the words of Jean-Charles Gâteau:
Picasso felt a sudden and violent attraction to a young and beautiful photographer. Dora Maar, radiant, with ebony hair, her blue-green eyes, her controlled gestures, fascinated him. She still lived with her parents but in her enigmatic attitude you could see a spontaneity restrained, a fiery temperament ready to be carried away, mad impulses ready to be unleashed. She withstood without a batting of the eye Picasso’s stare, and he was the one to flee.
The Weeping Woman, Pablo Picasso, 1937
For me she’s the weeping woman. For years I have painted her in tortured forms, not through sadism, and not with pleasure, either, just obeying a vision that forced itself on me. It was the deep reality, not the superficial one. Dora, for me, was always the weeping woman.”