Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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David Douglas Duncan


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Follow link for an enlarged imageThe Private World of Pablo Picasso (1958) / view images from this book

“ . . . Arrived this morning on the Blue Train from Paris. Jacqueline and Lump met me at the station. Picasso had been working late last night, as usual, so was still in the sack. We woke him up — with the book. He’s simply elated — he’s happy.”
— David Douglas Duncan

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Duncan’s second opus was the celebratory story of over a year spent in the presence of the twentieth century’s leading artist — Pablo Picasso. Over the course of the next five years the little volume appeared in five different language editions and sold over 150,000 copies worldwide. It became a unique volume in the history of art — a revealing portrait in photographs and words of the life and creativity of one of the major living figures in the world of art.

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From the book jacket text:
. . . In thinking back over all the impressions my clearest image of Picasso is that of a truly gallant, unfailingly delightful human being. Much as he loves his work and resents those hours when he can’t be doing something, I have never seen him make the slightest effort to throw his very considerable weight around — the guest in his home is the guest until he, the visitor, decides to leave. Picasso tolerates it all. (Only today another interruption from another guest and I was terribly indignant; then he passed me in the studio and said, “No, no! Don’t be like that. It’s only a life!”)

. . . I also got him with Gary Cooper, after which he kept whipping around wearing the ten-gallon hat Gary gave him (Cooper wore it with Bergman in “Saratoga Trunk”) and spinning a helluva big Colt .45, also a gift from Gary . . .

. . . These last two weeks have brought the roof down, way down. I have the only photos ever made of the Maestro in his studio painting a canvas from the first stroke — a terribly complex portrait of Jacqueline which kept changing and changing, almost as fast as I could fire the camera. There are at least three finished portraits which don’t exist any more, except on our films. He painted them out, almost as quickly as he created them . . .

. . . Finally, in these last days, the book came to a logical conclusion. We have him doing everything, as an artist, with the final payoff coming while he works on canvas. But that didn’t give me an off-beat closing chapter. I didn’t know what was coming, but then it happened: It is Picasso handing along his brushes to his child — as simple as that. His nine-year-old daughter Paloma appears to be the one who has inherited much of his incredible drive and talent. Picasso has given her another inheritance: his love of the work he touches. I have covered many, many subjects as a photographer. This is the best.

Extraordinary Team: From the moment they met — Picasso was in the bathtub — David Douglas Duncan began recording the story. Picasso clowning with children, working late into the night, bringing out of his closets forgotten works painted 60 years before. Duncan, the great photographer, author of This Is War!, master of adventure, watched — and recorded more than 10,000 photographs, taken every waking moment of the day and night. Over 300 of the best are here. A human document, a living art show — with the viewer as the privileged private audience.