'Bust of a Woman', Picasso's portrait of Dora Maar, his lover of nine years, painted in 1944 - the year he dumped her for 21-year-old Francoise Gilot - was vandalized last weekend.

True confessions

If I had it in me to destroy another's artwork like 20-year-old Shakeel Ryan Massey, who ripped the painting on display at Tate Modern, I would have joined him in the attack. It's not known yet why Massey attacked the portrait, but I know why I would have. The image conjures up Maar's story that Picasso made so sad. As the New York Times pointed out in an obit when she died at age 90, he put her in a "cruel and tragic light."

Who's who?

The portrait, valued at $26 million, shows a glassy-eyed, blankly staring Maar that unwittingly recalls the nervous breakdown she suffered after he left her.

The way "Bust of a Woman" looks, it's as if she painted it, not only owing to the empty stare, but also the striped wallpaper reminiscent of prison bars. Such a view doesn't match that of the Tate Modern exhibit note, quoted by The New York Post in its report of Massey's attack. The museum focuses entirely on Picasso's state of mind rather than on Maar's - like this:

"It was completed in Paris in May 1944, during the final months of the Nazi occupation, after several of the Spanish master’s friends were arrested and deported. Bust of a Woman...captures this complex moment of fear and hope that would lead Picasso to join the Communist Party in October 1944."

Maar vs. Tate Modern

Maar would not have liked what Tate said of "Bust of a Woman.

" When asked about Picasso's paintings of her - most of which look tortured - she answered, "All portraits of me are lies. They're Picassos, not one is Dora Maar." Her words were cited in an Elle article by Sady Doyle in 2014 called "Bertolucci Wasn't the First Man to Abuse a Woman and Call it Art and He Won't Be the Last".

Too controlling

Picasso's influence on Maar's art-making wasn't positive either. Prior to moving in with him, she had a good career going as a Surrealist painter, according to Gerard Durozoi's 2002 "History of the Surrealist Movement." She also was known as a photographer credited with documenting the progress of his most famous work - Guernica.

But in a New York Times write-up of her passing, titled "Dora Maar, a Muse of Picasso, is dead" by Alan Riding, Picasso is said to have squelched her art-making impulses, imposing the Cubist style on her.

Owning up

The Nation's report of the vandalized portrait noted that the rip in the painting is being assessed and not yet known how much damage Massey caused. He was brought before Camberwell Green Magistrate Court in London and, oddly, denied the charge against him. If I had done the dastardly deed, I hope I would have owned up to it and said why.

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