Celebrating Picasso: Photographs by David Douglas Duncan

Photographs by David Douglas Duncan

American David Douglas Duncan (b. 1916) was an immensely courageous and talented combat photographer, beginning with his experience in the Pacific theater of World War II. After the war, Duncan became a photographer for Life magazine, covering conflicts all over the world including the Korean and Vietnam Wars. As a former Marine himself, Duncan had deep sympathy for the average man in uniform. His images are at once raw and deeply humane, emphasizing the personal experience of war—the danger, exhaustion, and emotion.

In 1956, impressed by the art of Pablo Picasso, Duncan presented himself at the artist’s summer home, the Villa la Californie in southern France. He was immediately welcomed and the intimacy of their friendship is indicated by Duncan’s very first photograph of Picasso—soaking in his bathtub! Until the artist’s death in 1973, Duncan returned often to visit and photograph, creating an unparalleled visual record of the great artist at work and at play.

The photographs in this exhibition are drawn from Duncan’s generous recent gift of 161 inkjet prints (printed in 2013) of key Picasso images to The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Picasso is pictured at his summer home with his third wife, Jacqueline, and occasionally his children, Claude and Paloma. Surrounded by animals—goats and dogs, including Duncan’s dachshund Lump—and distinguished guests like Jean Cocteau and Gary Cooper, La Californie was a source of constant inspiration.

Picasso was always busy, whether painting, drawing, or creating one of his many ceramic plates. On rare occasions, Picasso would venture outside his villa, usually to attend one of his favorite events—the bullfights in Arles. Between the years 1956–61, Duncan would take more than 10,000 negatives at La Californie, resulting in seven books devoted to the artist. In writing to his editor about the work, Duncan’s admiration is apparent: “[Picasso] appears to love all work that he touches. This love shows up in the pictures, too. I have covered many, many subjects as a photographer. This is the Best.”

The exhibition Celebrating Picasso: Photographs by David Douglas Duncan is drawn from the collection of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri.


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Celebrating Picasso will tour June 2016 through April 2018. The dates below reflect ten-week exhibition periods. Dates are subject to change; please contact MoreArt@maaa.org or (800) 473-3872 x208/209 for current availability.

  • June 26–September 3, 2016 El Paso Museum of Art
    El Paso, TX
  • March 1–April 30, 2017 The Trout Museum of Art
    Appleton, WI
  • August 7–October 11, 2017
  • November 5, 2017–January 15, 2018
  • February 9–April 21, 2018

Exhibition Details

50 black-and-white photographs and video interview with David Douglas Duncan

  • Content

    50 black-and-white photographs and video interview with David Douglas Duncan

  • Curated By

    Jane Aspinwell, Associate Curator, Photography, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO

  • Organized By

    The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO

  • Out-of-Region Rental Fee


  • In-Region Rental Fee


  • Duration

    10-week display

  • Shipping

    Fine Art

  • Running Feet


  • Square Feet


  • Security


  • Number of Crates/Total Weight

    4 crates/650 pounds

  • Insurance

    The exhibition is fully insured by ExhibitsUSA at no additional expense to you, both while installed and during transit.