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Pavillon Populaire : The Surface and the Flesh. Madame d’Ora, Vienna-Paris, 1907-1957


For its first exhibition of the year 2023, the Pavillon Populaire – photographic art space of the City of Montpellier – welcomes “La Surface et la Chair. Madame d’Ora, Vienne-Paris, 1907-1957”.

Indeed, under the name of Madame d’Ora, Dora KALLMUS (1881–1963) was a renowned photographer, working as a society portraitist first in Vienna, then a major cultural center and laboratory of modernity in Europe, then in Paris in the Roaring Twenties.

From her portrait of the painter Gustav Klimt in 1908 to that of Picasso in 1958, using the most modern techniques, she dealt with many subjects over the course of an extraordinary career of more than fifty years.

A precursor, in 1908 she was one of the first women to open a photography studio in Vienna. Aristocrats, actresses and fashion designers appreciated her artistic intuition, her talent for capturing the personality of her models, for matching clothes and accessories, and soon many magazines regularly published her images.

It was in 1925 that she moved to Paris, where she was immediately called upon by haute couture houses such as Balenciaga and Chanel to photograph the elegant outfits worn by Tamara de Lempicka, Josephine Baker and many others. A major figure on the art scene, she made many studio portraits of fashionable personalities, whom she rubbed shoulders with in the high society of her time.

But the war disrupted her life and her work. Jewish, she lost her Parisian studio during the Occupation, which forced her to hide in Ardèche for several years during which her family and friends were persecuted. Returning to Paris after 1945, having lost everything, she then took a sharp but empathetic look at the victims of war, and a much more distant look on glamor and money. From the dazzle in the darkest times, from avant-garde artists to destitute refugees, to the astonishing metaphorical work on Parisian slaughterhouses, the portraits of Madame d’Ora vividly recount the upheavals of the first half of the Twentieth century.

The exhibition presents collections of vintage prints from museums in Vienna, Linz (Austria), Hamburg, Berlin (Germany), and Paris, with an important documentary fund illustrating the historical context.


La Surface et la Chair. Madame d’Ora, Vienne-Paris, 1907-1957
from February 18 to April 16, 2023
Le Pavillon Populaire
espace d’art photographique de la Ville de Montpellier
Esplanade Charles-de-Gaulle
34000 Montpellier, France

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