Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Viva MacLeod's Bookstore, Viva Picasso

Visiting MacLeod's Bookstore* on the corner of Hornby and West Pender in Vancouver is an adventure. Every bit of space in the shop is filled with overflowing stacks of books. Despite the apparent chaos, the helpful staff seem to know where everything is located. I was shopping for a Christmas gift for someone who values thriftiness and making the most of our resources. Why buy one new book when I can get three or more used ones for the same price? It was my good fortune to find books for others on my list. The best find was the book:

Viva Picasso A Centennial Celebration 1881 - 1981
by David Douglas Duncan

David Douglas Duncan is a world famous American photographer and author known in part for his combat photography as well as his eight books of photos of Picasso. The great photojournalist met the great artist at Picasso's home in Cannes, France in 1956. Duncan was invited to come back as a guest and stay at any time, as if it was his home. I doubt if any other photographer had access to Picasso's day-to-day life in the same way that Duncan had for over seventeen years.

Picasso Dancing in His Studio - after photo by David Douglas Duncan
8 x 10" - Pencil on Paper

This book has dozens of intriguing photos, many are black and white and all taken in natural light, without a flash to avoid disturbing the subjects. Each photo has an explanatory note with an interesting detail or comment from Duncan. I read the book in the past 24 hours more than once - what entertainment !

We are given voyeuristic glimpses into Picasso's life; most of the shots are taken inside his home where the rooms are filled with his art. Many photos feature Picasso's last love, Jacqueline Roque and their various pets such as the goat and Lump, the daschund. We see Picasso at work and can observe his intensity, the long hours, his prolific output and the way he enjoyed life. The photographs, together with the notes, convey the artist's bright character and a fascinating life. I am giving the book away for Christmas.  It is the perfect gift.

See the David Douglas Duncan Archive at the Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin

*Photo of MacLeod's Book courtesy of Stephen Arod Shirreffs


  1. A very informative post Shelley. I really spent some time with the link. I have always loved photography, and thought that they are the best examples of 2D composition there is to learn from. Thanks. Your drawing is lovely and makes me smile. It looks like it was a lot of fun to do.

  2. Hi Gary...Yay, I'm glad you enjoyed the post. I sure enjoyed the book and yes, doing the drawing too! The photos are such an interesting insight to Picasso's life and the rhythm of his work - from noon to midnight or later, daily.