Dora Kalmus (1881 – 1963)

Dora Kallmus (1881 – 1963) aka Madame D’Ora was an Austrian Jewish photographer. “Madame d’Ora’s vibrant portraits of twentieth-century artists and intellectuals remain important testaments to European cultural life at the turn of the century and beyond. Not only did her high quality photographs of well-known figures such as Josephine Baker (1906–1975), Karl Kraus (1874–1936), Arthur Schnitzler (1862–1931) and Gustav Klimt (1862–1918) receive international acclaim, but her studios in Vienna and Paris also became fashionable meeting places for the cultural and intellectual elite.

D’Ora’s achievements also paved the way for other European women’s careers in photography, an area in which many Jewish women in particular found success… D’Ora was one of the first photographers to focus on the emerging areas of modern, expressive dance and fashion, particularly after 1920, when fashion photographs started to replace drawings in magazines. While her photographic technique was not radical, her avant-garde subject matter was a risky choice for a commercial studio. However, d’Ora’s photographs, which captured her clients’ individuality with new, natural positions in contrast to stiff, old-fashioned poses, quickly became popular.”

In 1907, she opened a photography studio with Benda in Vienna called the Benda-D’Ora Studio. The name was based on the pseudonym “Madame d’Ora”, which she used professionally. The gallery became was so successful that they opened another studio in Paris in 1924, thanks to popularity amongst aristrocrats. Three years later she left Vienna for Paris. In Paris, she became known for her society and fashion photography during the 1930s and 1940s. Her subjects included Josephine Baker, Tamara de Lempicka, Alban Berg, Niddy Impekoven, Maurice Chevalier, Colette, and other dancers, actors, painters, and writers.

When the Germans invaded France she fled to a convent in the countryside. She returned to Paris in late 1946 and reopened the studio. In 1959 she was involved in a traffic accident that left her an invalid. She died in Frohnleiten, Steiermark, Austria, in 1963.

Dora Kalmus

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