Dora Maar’s Père Ubu is a difficult image to process. It shows a creature so close and in such a pose that it appears to be plotting to take over the world. (It’s probably an armadillo fetus in a specimen jar.) Maar made the image in 1936, and it became a popular postcard afterward. It fits nicely with other creepy images Maar made around that time, including The Simulator, which shows a child writhing, The Exorcist-style, in a freaky dungeon, and Untitled (Puppet Hooked on a Fence), which is in the National Gallery’s collection.
A print of Père Ubu will join that work in Washington, the National Gallery announced Friday. The print is a gift from J. Patrick and Patricia A. Kennedy, who have already donated a number of works to the museum.
As is depressingly common, Maar may be better known for her association with a man than for her own work. The fact that the man was Pablo Picasso, to whom she served as a muse, model, and companion (enduring abuse and abandonment along the way) should nonetheless not overshadow her own career as an artist, which continued into the 1980s.
Père Ubu takes its name from Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi and the antihero at its center, which also inspired the 1970s and ’80s Cleveland art-punk band of the same name.
Maar turned to painting at Picasso’s urging and didn’t return to photography until later in her life. The National Gallery owns another print of her 1930s work that appears to show a man’s head floating above water.