Portrait de Dora Maar au Chignon.I
Portrait de Dora Maar au Chignon.I (Bloch 291)
1936 (October 21, Paris)
Drypoint and Echoppe guillochée on Montval laid paper
One of three impressions before steelfacing
Printed by Lacourière, 1936
Plate: 13 3/4 x 9 3/4 inches
Sheet: 20 1/4 x 13 inches 
Framed: 23 5/8 x 19 3/8 inches
(Bloch 291) (Baer 611.A.a) 

Though they had met in January of 1936, Dora Maar and Picasso did not become lovers until August, when they were both summering in Saint-Tropez. Picasso, as always, was fascinated with his new mistress and drew a number of portraits of her over the ensuing months. He was quite occupied with her captivating eyes and her chameleonic nature. He later said of her, “She was anything you wanted…a dog, a mouse, a bird, an idea, a thunderstorm. That’s a great advantage when falling in love”.i


Amidst a flurry of images Picasso created of Maar in the fall of 1936, Picasso made two drypoint portraits. In Portrait de Dora Maar au Chignon I, he perfectly captures her dreamy idealism as she gazes up and away. Her strong features and stunning eyelashes are accentuated by his sure hand with the drypoint needle. Picasso also was attracted to Maar’s intense personality and dignified self-possession, which he shows in Portrait de Dora Maar au Chignon II. In both, she wears a fashionable blouse with a unique collar and a classic upswept hairstyle that showcases her distinctive features.


Drypoint is a delicate medium which involves drawing directly into a copper plate with an anodized needle. When the artist presses into the plate with the tool, a small amount of the copper is displaced—this is called a burr. Later, when the plate is inked, the pigment collects around the raised areas of the burr, creating a rich, velvety line. Each time the plate is put through the press, the burr is somewhat compressed and a little definition is lost—the warmth of the line tends to fade as the edition progresses. The current impression is an extremely rare and early proof that shows the burr in its early phase.


This is one of three contemporaneous impressions before the edition of fifty-seven printed by Lacourière in 1942. The plate was later steelfaced—a modern technique of electrolysis that protects the burr from degrading but also slightly diminishes subtle details of the line—and printed on Auvergne paper by Frélaut in 1961 in an edition of fifty plus fifteen artist’s proofs as part of the Caisse à remords .


i Mary Ann Caws, Picasso’s Weeping Woman: The Life and Art of Dora Maar [London: Thames and Hudson, 2000], 90.