Picasso packs a punch: photography show offers unseen candid glimpses of artist's personal life

Exhibition at Hauser & Wirth in Gstaad, Switzerland, shows images captured by the war photographer David Douglas Duncan

David Douglas Duncan's Bataille entre Claude et son père portant le chapeau de cow-boy de Gary Cooper; [Battle between Claude and his father wearing Gary Cooper's cowboy hat]; (July 1957) © David Douglas Duncan; © Succession Picasso/DACS; London 2019; Courtesy the estate David Douglas Duncan

In February 1956, David Douglas Duncan rang the doorbell of La Californie, a tree-ringed home on the outskirts of Cannes, France. Jacqueline Roque answered the door, led the photographer upstairs and introduced him to her husband, Pablo Picasso. The 74-year-old Spanish artist was, at that moment, soaking in the bath. Duncan asked Picasso if he might allow him to take his portrait as he bathed. He agreed. From that starting point, the photographer developed a friendship with Picasso that lasted until the great artist’s death 17 years later, in 1973.

Duncan, a renowned war photographer who had captured the Second World War and the Vietnam War for Life magazine, took 25,000 images of Picasso over that time, providing hitherto unseen glimpses of the artist’s private life. Now, an exhibition of Duncan’s portraits of Picasso at play is on show at Hauser & Wirth's Le Vieux Chalet in Gstaad, Switzerland. The exhibition is co-organised by Picasso’s son, Claude, who appears in many of Duncan’s photographs, including this one from 1957, play-fighting with his father, who is wearing the actor Gary Cooper’s cowboy hat.

Picasso Through the Lens of David Douglas Duncan, Le Vieux Chalet, Gstaad, Switzerland, until 28 February

Appeared in The Art Newspaper, 320 February 2020