In the third installment of our tribute to David Douglas Duncan in the month of his 100th birthday, Mary Alice Harper, Head of Visual Materials Cataloging, writes about Duncan’s close relationship with Pablo Picasso. Read more
The atria on the first floor of the Ransom Center are surrounded by windows featuring etched reproductions of images from the collections. The windows offer visitors a hint of the cultural treasures to be discovered inside. From the Outside In is a series that highlights some of these images and their creators. Interact with all of the windows at From the Outside In: A Visitor’s Guide to the Windows.
When Pablo Picasso walked into a room of people, his intense gaze commanded attention. He could seduce, caress, or even frighten people with his piercing eyes. His gaze still attracts many Harry Ransom Center patrons, even young school children, when they walk into the south atrium. There they see the window etching of David Douglas Duncan’s photograph of Picasso’s eyes, which calls attention to the Center’s archive of Duncan’s work and to his connection with the artist.
Duncan, an American photojournalist, began his professional career selling his picture stories to newspapers and magazines. In 1943, Duncan enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve and was sent to the Pacific Theater. There, he took photographs of aerial missions and operations on the Solomon Islands, the Battle of Okinawa, and the Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri. Duncan’s training and experiences during World War II prepared him well for future assignments covering both the Korean and Vietnam Wars. His ability to capture not only the action but also the human face of war, frequently at significant risk to himself, cemented his reputation as one of the greatest war photographers of the twentieth century.
In 1946, just one month after discharge from the military, Duncan was hired by Life magazine to be its correspondent to the Middle East, a position he held until 1956. The magazine sent Duncan all over the world to cover important events, including the end of the British Raj in India, various cultures of Africa, Afghanistan, and Japan, and conflicts in both the Middle East and—most notably—Korea. His photographs and captions reflect the viewpoints of ordinary people as well as those in power. While working for Life, Duncan grew increasingly frustrated when his images were used to illustrate articles by writers with whom he strongly disagreed. So in 1951, he published This Is War!, his own photo-narrative of the Korean War. Since then he has published 25 photography books on a number of subjects.
Duncan has said that his favorite person to photograph was Pablo Picasso. The two met in southern France in 1956, and were friends for the remaining 17 years of Picasso’s life. In 1957, Duncan published The Private World of Pablo Picasso, the first of eight books about the great artist. For the photograph of Picasso’s eyes, Duncan cropped the original image to achieve a dramatic effect. Two copies of the cropped image—which Duncan mounted to canvas—became the foundation for Picasso’s self-portraits as an owl. The Ransom Center holds several original works by Picasso resulting from his close friendship with Duncan; these include a sketch of Duncan at work and a lunch plate painted with a portrait of Duncan’s dachshund, Lump, signed and inscribed to the dog.
More information about both Duncan and Picasso is available in the Ransom Center’s web exhibition David Douglas Duncan.
Ransom Center volunteer Carol Headrick wrote this post.
Carlton Lake (1936–2006), a longtime curator at the Ransom Center, collected a wealth of modern French materials, including manuscripts, musical scores, and art by Paul Eluard, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Marcel Proust, Samuel Beckett, and Claude Debussy. Below are selected items from his collection. Full-size versions of the thumbnail images can be viewed in the below images.
In February 2013, the Harry Ransom Center will host the first U.S. showing of the exhibition Arnold Newman: Masterclass, a posthumous retrospective of photographer Arnold Newman (1918–2006).
The exhibition was organized by the American nonprofit organization Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography (FEP) in collaboration with the Ransom Center. The show, curated by FEP’s William Ewing, highlights 200 framed vintage prints spanning Newman’s career, selected from the privately held Arnold Newman Archive and the collections of major American museums and private collectors. Twenty-eight photographs from the Ransom Center’s Newman archive are featured in the exhibition.
Newman’s subjects included world leaders, authors, artists, musicians, and scientists—Pablo Picasso in his studio; Igor Stravinsky sitting at the piano; Truman Capote lounging on his sofa; and Otto Frank, father of Anne Frank, in the attic where his family hid from the Nazis for more than two years.
Complementing the exhibition is Ewing’s Masterclass: Arnold Newman (Thames & Hudson Inc., New York), which pays homage to Newman and includes more than 200 photographs, four essays, and short biographies of Newman’s sitters. Essay contributors include Ewing; David Coleman, director of the Witliff Collections at Texas State University and former curator of photography at the Ransom Center; and Arthur Ollman, professor at San Diego State University and curator of many exhibitions produced in collaboration with Newman.
Recently, the Wall Street Journal’s “Photo-Op: Chair Man” highlighted the book with Newman’s photo of Charles Eames in his studio.
In October 1996, world-renowned photographer and author David Douglas Duncan donated his archive to the Harry Ransom Center. The Center has preserved, organized, cataloged, exhibited and made available a variety of images and artifacts that complete the archive, including many that document his years of friendship with Pablo Picasso. Recently, Duncan donated a plate painted by Picasso of his beloved dachshund named Lump.
The new exhibition Picasso at Work. Through the lens of David Douglas Duncan, runs through September 25 at the Museo Picasso, Malaga, and will then move to the Picasso Kuntsmuseum Munster from October 15 to January 15, 2012 and finally at La Piscine Musee d’Art in Roubaix, France, beginning in February 2012. Ransom Center photo archivist Mary Alice Harper’s essay “The Nomadic Lens of David Douglas Duncan,” featured in the exhibition catalog, has been published in English and Spanish by Museo Picasso Malaga, in German by Hirmer, and in French by Gallimard. Below is an excerpt from Harper’s essay.
In late January of 1956, Duncan set off to begin his next Life assignment. He was headed for Spain but with one detour in mind, stopping in Cannes to try and meet Picasso. Duncan was unsure whether or not he would find the artist at home, and, if so, be permitted to enter. In fact, he had intended to meet Picasso for years, ever since his friend and fellow photojournalist Robert Capa promised to introduce them. But Capa had died tragically in 1954, so Duncan decided to present Picasso with a gift when the time came. He had a ring made for the occasion: a solid but simple heavy gold band with “PICASSO—DUNCAN” incised inside and set with an ancient carnelian with a “Picassoesque” rooster carved on it. Picasso clearly appreciated the gesture as Duncan was permitted to enter. Three days later in a letter to a friend he described what had transpired:
The girl [Jacqueline] came down. Maybe thirty, black slacks and pullover… and wonderfully friendly. I’d thought that she might be the protective guardian type. Told her why I was there, and gave her the ring for Pablo P. She went upstairs, two at a time. I looked around. The place was jammed with crates, boxes, bronzes, cartons, barrels… they had been in the place for around half a year—not a single piece of furniture. Nothing! She came downstairs, grabbed me by the hand and up we went. No furniture. Whizzed through a series of corridors and rooms, followed a black electrical connection cord… into the bathroom, and there he was—cheerily lathering himself, in the tub! It was perfect! Pablo Picasso without much question, the greatest living artist of our century, black eyes dancing, warm and safe and wringing wet, in his bathtub. In went the ring, soap and all. She went on scrubbing his back… which she’d been doing when I arrived. Picasso and I talked in Spanish, she and I in English; I must have seemed naked, too, without my camera so he told me to get it, that the pictures, if I wanted them, might be interesting, since this was one place where no one had ever nailed him. From that moment on we had one of those times that I really shall treasure. After she dried him off and he pulled on a heavy bathrobe, we went into the next room… no furniture… where he got his glasses, and my magnifier, and then really looked at his ring… After carefully examining the stone, and carving… “What instrument could the man possibly have used?”, sort of a query to himself. Best of all he understood the reason why I gave it to him and accepted it exactly as intended. I feel that it delights him. We went downstairs. The front three rooms… only two tables, crammed with things he has made, painted, turned or twisted into life… The place was mine. Picasso and Jacqueline simply took me in as a third member… fourth, counting that boxer… Possibly it was an exceptional day, but he radiated one extraordinary quality… youthful exuberance; a child’s direct, intense feeling for the impact of those moments that we remember through the remainder of our years. This man still has it.
The Ransom Center has received a plate painted by Pablo Picasso from David Douglas Duncan, a photojournalist whose archive resides at the Ransom Center.
Duncan donated the plate in honor of his friendship with Stanley Marcus, who suggested that Duncan donate his archive to the Ransom Center in 1996. The archive includes more than 36,000 prints, 87,000 negatives, and 21,000 transparencies, in addition to correspondence, manuscripts, camera equipment, artwork, and personal effects.
Picasso painted the plate, a piece of commercial dinnerware, at his home Villa La Californie in Cannes, France, on April 19, 1957. Dedicated to Duncan’s dog Lump, a dachshund, the plate is 24 centimeters in diameter and contains a portrait of Lump.
Beginning Tuesday, February 1, the plate will be on view in the Ransom Center’s exhibition Culture Unbound: Collecting in the Twenty-First Century, running through July 31.
Comparable painted plates by Picasso have sold at auction for amounts ranging from $20,000 to $90,000.
Through the encouragement of photojournalist Robert Capa, Duncan met Picasso on Feb. 8, 1956, when he visited the artist in the south of France. Upon his arrival, Jacqueline Roque, Picasso’s companion at the time, led Duncan up to the bathroom where Picasso was in the bath. Duncan presented Picasso a ring he made for the occasion, and a bond was formed between the two men.
Upon Duncan’s departure, Picasso waved goodbye and said, “This is your home—come back!”
In April 1957, Duncan returned to La Californie, bringing Lump with him, and began extensively photographing Picasso, his home and his family in their daily lives. Duncan wrote about Lump’s visit stating, “[a]fter his first exploratory survey of Villa La Californie, it was ‘Adios, Rome!’ and from that moment on Lump became a permanent resident at Picasso’s home.”
While eating lunch one day, Picasso asked Duncan if Lump had ever had a plate of his own. Duncan responded no. At that point, Picasso picked up his lunch plate, and with brush and paint that were at the table, began painting a simple, yet detailed, portrait of Lump. The plate was inscribed to Lump, signed and dated by Picasso, then handed to Duncan.
Reflecting on that moment, Duncan wrote that “[t]hat ceramic souvenir was symbolic of Picasso’s lifelong spontaneous generosity.”
Duncan captured this friendship and Lump’s legacy in Picasso’s works in his book Picasso & Lump: A Dachshund’s Odyssey (2006).
Duncan authored additional books on Picasso, including The Private World of Pablo Picasso (1958), Picasso’s Picassos (1961), Goodbye Picasso (1974), The Silent Studio (1976), Viva Picasso (1980), Picasso and Jacqueline (1988) and Picasso Paints a Portrait (1996).
Please click the thumbnails below to view full-size images.