Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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David Douglas Duncan


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Follow link for an enlarged imagePicasso's Picassos (1961) / view images from this book

From the book jacket text:
This magnificent display of Picasso’s personal collection of his own paintings is a milestone in art history, revealing for the first time many of the finest and most exciting pictures of his long career. Here, one hundred and two of these already legendary but unknown masterpieces are now seen in colour photographs taken in Picasso’s home in a room adjoining his studio. David Douglas Duncan spent more than six months carefully photographing over five hundred of Picasso’s Picassos, often with the artist himself at his shoulder. Picasso and Duncan spent hours checking the colour fidelity of each transparency against the paintings themselves. Duncan re-photographed one hundred of the paintings four times in his determination to obtain absolute perfection of colour. In Switzerland, where this book was produced, engravers and printers employing the most modern techniques of their crafts painstakingly continued the pursuit of perfection with Duncan. The only way to have created a truer book of Picasso’s Picassos would have been to have him paint every page, as he humorously suggested. “Of course,” he added, “it would also take twenty years!” Picasso's Picassos is a masterpiece of book production — the end result of a combined effort by the great painter, a highly skilled photographer and dedicated craftsmen.

In 1956, Duncan's travels as a foreign correspondent took him to the villa La Californie, Picasso's home on the French Riviera. Their first meeting developed into a deep and continuing friendship. During a later visit Picasso showed Duncan a locked and darkened room crowded with carefully stacked canvases: Picasso's Picassos, the greatest "buried treasure" in modern art. There were more than three hundred paintings in that one room — more than five hundred in La Californie itself; most of them pictures that only Picasso and a few of his closest friends had ever seen.

Paintings ranging from nine feet wide to a few inches square lined the walls, covered the floors, were piled on tables and disconnected radiators. There were religious subjects pre-dating the beginning of the century, painted in Barcelona when Picasso was fifteen years old. Others, from the first years of this century, revealed the seeds of Cubism. One extraordinary chapter is reproduced in its entirety — a full month's production of twenty-three major works; painted in 1936, these canvases have been unknown until now. Their existence was not even suspected. There were yet other pictures painted when Spain, his motherland, was crushed by civil war, and his canvases show her agony; paintings made when he was heartbroken; when he was in love; portraits of children in which their world and his were one; collages and still lifes, and canvases revealing whole races of creatures never seen on earth. Above all, Picasso's Picassos reveal the artist's innermost self, and in Picasso's Picassos the very soul and tracing hand of genius are laid bare.

As casually as the day when he uncovered his “buried” paintings, Picasso gave Duncan permission to make what is surely the most exciting book in the art world today. These superb colour plates, tipped in by hand, are accompanied by ten thousand words relating the paintings to Picasso's life, frequently based upon Picasso's own comments to Duncan. In addition, Picasso's Picassos includes a twenty-four page word-and-colour profile of Picasso himself. Several of these photographs are remarkable in themselves — outstanding examples of Duncan's talent for capturing dramatic moments which tell the story of our time. Finally, of inestimable value to collectors, museums, students, dealers, and all art lovers, there is a sixty-page black-and-white gravure catalogue which documents every Picasso hidden by Picasso in La Californie. Over five hundred paintings, the majority of them never before recorded, are reproduced in exact chronological order, from 1895 to 1960.