Madame d’Ora at Neue Galerie New York, February 20 – June 8, 2020

Madame D’Ora is the largest museum retrospective on the Austrian photographer ever presented in the United States. Dora Kallmus (1881–1963), who came to be known as Madame d’Ora, was an unusual woman for her time with a spectacular career as one of the leading photographic portraitists of the early 20th century. The exhibition consists of sections devoted to the different periods of her life, from her early upbringing as the daughter of Jewish intellectuals in Vienna, to her days as a premier society photographer, through her survival during the Holocaust. The show includes more than 100 examples of her work, which is distinguished for its extreme elegance, and utter depth and darkness.

Forging a path in a field that was dominated by men, d’Ora enjoyed an illustrious 50-year career, from 1907 until 1957. Known today primarily for her work as a portrait photographer of the artistic and social elite of Europe, she also worked in other genres, in particular fashion. D’Ora was admired for her ability to capture the best features of her sitters, one of whom beseeched her to ‘Make me beautiful!’ Her late work, by contrast, is a testament to her suffering and personal loss in the aftermath of the Holocaust.” — Neue Galerie New York

In 1958, Jean Cocteau commented on d’Ora’s versatility remarking: “Madame d’Ora, fanned by the wing of genius, strolls in a labyrinth whose minotaur goes from the Dolly Sisters to the terrible bestiary of the slaughterhouses—where this ageless woman, more lucid than any young man, brushes the killers aside with a gesture and sets up her camera in their stead in front of the daily sacrifice of our carnivorous cult.”

1. Madame d'Ora, Owner of the Galerie Miethke Emma Bacher

Madame d’Ora (Dora Kallmus) (1881–1963). Owner of the Galerie Miethke Emma Bacher, ca. 1909. Private Collection

2. Madame d'Ora, Painter Mileva Roller (née Stoisavljevic) in a reform dress

Madame d’Ora (Dora Kallmus) (1881–1963). Painter Mileva Roller (née Stoisavljevic) in a reform dress, 1910. Collection Christian Brandstätter, Vienna

3. Madame d'Ora, Actress and dancer Elsie Altmann-Loos, 1922. Photostudio Setzer-Tschiedel, Vienna

Madame d’Ora (Dora Kallmus) (1881–1963). Actress and dancer Elsie Altmann-Loos, 1922. Photostudio Setzer-Tschiedel, Vienna

4. Madame d'Ora, Actress Helene Jamrich with a hat by Zwieback, designed by the painter Rudolf Krieser, 1909. Private Collection

Madame d’Ora (Dora Kallmus) (1881–1963). Actress Helene Jamrich with a hat by Zwieback, designed by the painter Rudolf Krieser, 1909. Private Collection

5. Madame d'Ora, Painter Tsuguharu Foujita, 1926. © Nachlass Madame d’Ora, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

Madame d’Ora (Dora Kallmus) (1881–1963). Painter Tsuguharu Foujita, 1926. Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg. Photo: © Nachlass Madame d’Ora, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

The Dolly Sisters

Madame d’Ora (Dora Kallmus) (1881–1963). The Dolly Sisters, ca. 1928–29. The Jewish Museum, New York. Purchase: Photography Acquisitions Committee Fund, 1998–13

7. Madame d'Ora, Woman modeling a hat by Mme Agnès, ca. 1938. Photoinstitut Bonartes, Vienna

Madame d’Ora (Dora Kallmus) (1881–1963). Woman modeling a hat by Madame Agnès, ca. 1938. Photoinstitut Bonartes, Vienna

8. Madame d'Ora, Actor and singer Maurice Chevalier, 1927. © Nachlass Madame d’Ora, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

Madame d’Ora (Dora Kallmus) (1881–1963). Actor and singer Maurice Chevalier, 1927. Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg. Photo: © Nachlass Madame d’Ora, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

9. Madame d'Ora, Woman supporting a sickly man at a displaced persons camp in Austria, 1948. © Nachlass Madame d’Ora, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

Madame d’Ora (Dora Kallmus) (1881–1963). Woman supporting a sickly man at a displaced persons camp in Austria, 1948. Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg. Photo: © Nachlass Madame d’Ora, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

10. Madame d'Ora, Severed cow's legs in a Parisian abattoir, ca. 1954-57. © Nachlass Madame d’Ora, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

Madame d’Ora (Dora Kallmus) (1881–1963). Severed cow’s legs in a Parisian abattoir, ca. 1954–57. Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg. Photo: © Nachlass Madame d’Ora, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

11. Madame d'Ora, Elizabeth Strong-Cuevas in a costume by Pierre Balmain for her father's party, 1953. © Nachlass Madame d’Ora, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

Madame d’Ora (Dora Kallmus) (1881–1963). Elizabeth Strong-Cuevas in a costume by Pierre Balmain for her father’s party, 1953. Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg. Photo: © Nachlass Madame d’Ora, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

12. Madame d'Ora, Writer Colette (Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette), 1954. © Nachlass Madame d’Ora, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

Madame d’Ora (Dora Kallmus) (1881–1963). Writer Colette (Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette), 1954. Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg. Photo: © Nachlass Madame d’Ora, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

Madame D’Ora is organized by Neue Galerie New York. The exhibition is curated by Dr. Monika Faber, director of the Photoinstitut Bonartes in Vienna.

The exhibition was originally developed by Monika Faber and Magdalena Vukovic, Photoinstitut Bonartes, Vienna, together with Esther Ruelfs, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, for a presentation in Hamburg and at the Leopold Museum, Vienna.

Images courtesy Neue Galerie New York.