How Picasso fell for a dachshund
He was a cheeky little dachshund by the name of Lump who moved into PicassoÕs home (and heart) without so much as an invitation. Now David Douglas Duncan, the celebrated war photographer who introduced his dog to the artist, has released intimate pictures of the great man and his treasured muse. He tells John Lichfield the story of a remarkable creative relationship between man and beast
Monday 01 May 2006
Pablo Picasso's love of women is well documented. His fondness for dogs is less so. Or, rather, Picasso's weakness for one particular dog.
A book published today recounts, in photographs, the untold story of Picasso's doting - and artistic - relationship in the 1950s and 1960s with a dachshund called Lump or Lumpi or Lumpito.
The book - Lump: the Dog who Ate a Picasso - has been compiled by David Douglas Duncan, the legendary American war photographer and acclaimed photographer of Picasso. Duncan, 90, was a friend of Picasso from 1956 until his death in 1973. He has already published seven volumes of intimate photographs of the artist at work and at play. His latest book focuses on Lump (pronounced in the German way, "loomp"), a dog originally owned by Duncan himself, who decided to set up house in Picasso's villa in the south of France in 1957.
The title of the book is taken from an incident early in the unlikely friendship between the dachshund and the then greatest living artist. To ingratiate himself with Lump, Picasso drew a rabbit (in flowing Picasso-style) on the bottom of a sugar-impregnated cake-box and cut it out. Lump seized on the sugared cardboard rabbit (which might have been worth tens of thousands of pounds if it had survived) and ate it.
"Picasso liked to be surrounded by animals but he was never close to another animal in the way he was close to Lump," Duncan, who is now aged 90, remembers. "This was a love affair. Picasso would take Lump in his arms. He would feed him from his hand. Hell, that little dog just took over. He ran the damn house."
Duncan - already acclaimed for his photographs in the Second World War and Korean War - was introduced to Picasso in 1956 by one of the greatest of all war photographers, Robert Kapa. The following year the American acquired the three-month-old Lump ("rascal" in German) from a family in Stuttgart as a companion for his Afghan hound, Kubla.
"That Afghan would roll Lump around the apartment like a tennis ball or a soccer ball," Duncan says. "He wasn't nasty but he treated the little dog like a damn toy. In the spring of 1957, I drove from my then home in Rome to visit Pablo Picasso and (his companion) Jacqueline Roque at La Californie, their villa near Cannes. I took Lump with me."
As Duncan writes in his book, the villa La Californie was then "the magnetic pole for galaxies of museum curators, multifortune collectors, gallery owners, poets, publishers, Russian pianists and Gypsy guitarists, bullfighters, backlogs of old friends and optimistic strangers dreaming of gates swinging open for them."
The gates to an Afghan-hound-free life swung open for Lump.
"As soon as he got out of the car, the puppy took a sniff at the garden, took a look at all the interesting corners in the villa, and just moved in," Duncan says. "He dumped me for Picasso."
Over the next few years, Lump became part of the Picasso household, along with a boxer dog called Yan and a goat called Esmeralda. Picasso adored animals but he had an unsentimental relationship with them - except with Lump.
The dog slept on Picasso's bed. He ate at a table from a dinner plate that was decorated with his own image by the painter (at a time when any Picasso sketch was already worth a fortune). And Lump used a 7ft-high bronze Picasso statue in the garden as his urinal.
The 89 photographs in Duncan's book certainly capture the joyful, informal atmosphere of the Picasso villa and the painter's adoration of the little dachshund. "I think Picasso loved him because they were both loners," Duncan says. "They were both capable of great warmth but finally lived in their own inner worlds. Picasso used to say that Lump was neither a dog, nor a human, but something else."
And finally, as Duncan recalled, Lump also came to play a significant role in the history of 20th-century art.
"One day, Picasso said to me, 'Ishmael,' - he always called me Ishmael, I never asked why - 'You're taking all these pictures of me, don't you wonder what I am working on?'
"I said I was just a photographer, and not an art critic. I didn't like to ask. He showed me into his studio and he had started on a series of variations of the Velazquez painting, Las Meninas. In the Velazquez original, there is a mastiff in the foreground. In the Picasso versions of the painting, the mastiff had been replaced by Lump.
"Picasso gave the whole series later (45 in all) to the Picasso museum in Barcelona. And you can see them there to this day.
"To me that's the darndest, and most moving, part of the whole story. That little puppy from Stuttgart is preserved there for ever on this great series of paintings by one of the greatest masters of modern art."
Fifteen of the Barcelona paintings are reproduced in Duncan's book with captions in which Lump is imagined asking questions like, "How did I get here?"
Duncan says that the captions refer to Lump's strange journey from German puppy to artistic icon. They are also, perhaps, a reference to his own extraordinary journey from the American heartland - born in Kansas City in January 1916 - through photo-journalism for Life magazine in Korea and Vietnam, to friendship with one of the most important artistic figures of the 20th century.
The introduction to Duncan's book is entitled: "Yesterday seems unreal." He writes: "Today it sounds like a fantasy when re-telling some of the day-to-day stories that have enriched this lucky photographer's life."
Speaking to from his home outside Nice, he says: "I am a pretty good photographer but there are better photographers than me. The difference is that I was there. I saw all these things. I got the damned pictures."
And what happened to Lump? The end of the story is somewhat less idyllic. Six or seven years after Lump first set up home with Picasso, David Douglas Duncan visited the painter again. There was no sign of Lump.
"I asked where he was and they said vaguely that Lump was sick. You have to remember that Picasso was Spanish. His attitude to animals, even Lump, was a little different to maybe yours or mine. Anyway, it turned out that Lump had been taken to a vet's in Cannes.
"Dachshunds have serious problems with their spines. Lump had lost the use of his back legs. When I visited the vet, the little dog dragged himself towards me in a pathetic way. And that sonofabitch of a vet had given up on him and declared him paralysed. He wasn't feeding him....
"I drove overnight with Lump to Stuttgart, feeding him over my shoulder with my peanut butter crackers. There was a celebrated vet there who said immediately, after touching Lump's paws, that he was not paralysed.
"After a few months' treatment, Lump came back to live with us in Rome. He always walked a bit like a drunken sailor after that but he had a good life for another 10 years. We used to carry him around in a Pan Am bag...
"And do you know what? That little dog, born in 1956, and Picasso, born in 1881, died within 10 days of each other in 1973."
David Douglas Duncan's Lump: The Dog Who Ate a Picasso is published by Thames & Hudson priced £12.95. To order the book for the special price of £11.95 (including p&p) call Independent Books Direct on 08700 798 897
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