Cannes, 8 February 1956. The photojournalist David Douglas Duncan stops his car in front of Villa La Californie, residence of one of the most famous artists of all time: Pablo Picasso. In his hand is a ring especially made for Picasso, who appreciates the gesture and invites him into his home, his studio and his intense life.
With Stephanie Ansari and Tatyana Franck as its curators, Picasso at Work. Through the Lens of David Douglas Duncan brings together in the Museo Picasso Málaga
115 photographs selected from among the thousands that Duncan took of the artist and his milieu in those years.
The exhibition also presents 77 of Picassos works appearing in the photographs, thus opening up a dialogue with them and making it possible to go deeper into the extraordinary world of the artist. Notable here is the variety of techniques and styles they reveal and, also to be highlighted, is the presence of works that can be seen for the first time in the MPM, for example the impressive sculptures La mona y su cría (Baboon and Young, 1951) and Mujer con llave (Woman with Key, 1954-1957).
The younger generation perhaps thinks that Picasso was mysterious. He wasnt in the least. On the other hand, there is a mystery as far as Im concerned. Ive photographed him some 25,000 times, and each time he seemed perfectly normal, the same as anyone else, except for his eyes. He used to laugh, he was always very attentive to what you were saying, he was interested in you. But when I was with him, I never managed to ascertain what he was thinking. Despite what David Douglas Duncan suggests with these words, his images are deemed to constitute one of the best explorations aimed at understanding Picasso and his works.
Born in Kansas City (United States) in 1916, Duncan studied archaeology, marine biology and Spanish, which he was subsequently able to use to communicate with Picasso. In the Second World War he was a photographer on the South Pacific fronts. During this period, magazines like National Geographic bought several of his pieces, which encouraged him to continue working as a photographer after the War ended. Hence, from 1946 to 1956 he was a photo-reporter for the prestigious magazine Life, for which he immortalised such historic events as the end of the British Raj in India, the oil boom in Saudi Arabia, the civil war in Greece and, in particular, the Korean and Vietnam wars.
In 1971 he was the first photographer to have a solo exhibition in the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. Prior to this, in 1967, he had received the Robert Capa Gold Medal Award from the Overseas Press Club. Indeed, it was Capa himself who had encouraged Duncan to meet Picasso. I think youll end up good friends, he said. So, in 1956, on one of his trips to Europe, he decided to try his luck, headed for Cannes and turned up at the artists house. With a ring engraved with the names PICASSO-DUNCAN, the gift with which he would present himself, the photojournalist was received by Picasso while he was having a bath. This was the occasion of the famous first portrait shown in the exhibition and the start of a friendship that was to last until Picassos death in 1973, fruit of which were thousands of photographs and several books that introduce the reader into the space that he reserved for work, family and friends.
A Window on to the Artists Intimate Life
The exhibition devoted to the work of David Douglas Duncan in the Museo Picasso Málaga shows 115 photographs taken between 1956 and 1961. These images engage in dialogue with 77 works by Picasso that have been brought together for the occasion. Among the latter are portraits in oils of his wife Jacqueline, spectacular sculptures like La mona y su cría (Baboon and Young, 1951) and Mujer con llave (Woman with Key, 1954-1957) shown for the first time in the MPM drawings and ceramic pieces, which the visitor will easily recognise in the photographs. As a whole, the show highlights the diversity of styles and techniques of an artist who is still as fascinating today as he was when he once thrilled Duncans incisive lens.
The perspective thus offered makes it possible not only to enter into the intimate life of Picasso but also to understand the creative processes of his work and of the setting from which he took his inspiration. Friends, family, visitors and, in particular, works of art a whole host of them appear in the images of Duncan, who bears witness from the other side of the camera. In this regard, Claude Ruiz-Picasso, the artists son, states in his book, which has been published on the occasion of the exhibition, What you see is real. It is true. It was all simply natural, his presence too. There were no questions, no holds barred.
Picasso at Work. Through the Lens of David Douglas Duncan is completed by Duncans own testimony, contained in an approximately 20-minute-long documentary that was recorded in April this year, expressly to be shown at this exhibition. In it, the photojournalist describes his experience with Pablo Picasso, recalling some of their conversations, conjuring up the atmosphere of the artists homes and the trust and freedom with which he was allowed to carry out his work.
The exhibition has been possible thanks to the collaboration of a number of public and private collections, both in Spain and in other countries. After the Museo Picasso Málaga, the exhibition will be shown in the Kunstmuseum Pablo Picasso Münster, in Germany (15 October 2011 15 January 2012) and La Piscine. Musée dArt et dIndustrie André Diligent de Roubaix, in France.