by Lisa Bowman
Do you believe in love at first sight? It happened to a world-renowned artist. On April 19, 1957 a dachshund named Lump trotted into this artist’s studio and made it very clear to everyone that he was staying. The unlikely relationship is beautifully captured in “Picasso & Lump, A Dachshund’s Odyssey,” a compilation of photographs by legendary American photojournalist David Douglas Duncan. It’s a warm and intimate account of the unlikely pair.
Born in Spain in 1881, Pablo Picasso, whose full name is Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso, was arguably the most innovative artist of the 20th century.
Picasso resided in France most of his long and productive adult life. He and his muse/wife, Jacqueline Roque lived at “Villa La Californie,” a hillside mansion above Cannes. They shared their slice of paradise with Picasso’s pigeons, a goat named Esmeralda and Yan, the boxer.
On that fateful April day in 1957, David Douglas Duncan came to visit Picasso and Jacqueline, bringing along his one-year-old dachshund, Lump, whose name means “Rascal” in German. Within minutes of meeting Picasso, the dachshund lay cradled in his arms.
During the visit, Picasso asked Duncan if Lump had ever had his portrait painted. When Duncan said no, Picasso picked up a brush and painted Lump on his dinner plate, inscribing in French:
Pour Lump (For Lump)
He gave the plate to Duncan, but kept the dog. The two would be inseparable for six years.
Could this be Esmeralda and Lump playing under a tree?
Duncan doesn’t seem to have recorded his feelings about losing the pup to Picasso, but he did seize the opportunity to record their affectionate relationship in a series of photographs. Bulfinch Press published them in 2006, accompanied with text written by the photographer.
Jacqueline was surprised by Picasso’s response to Lump. The painter had owned many dogs, but had never snuggled with them nor allowed them to eat off his plate. Lump enjoyed those and many other privileges. Luckily, Jacqueline bonded with “Lumpito” as well.
As Duncan explains in his book:
“Lump adored Jacqueline, worshipped Picasso, and roamed La Californie never hearing the word –‘No!’”
Occasionally, Lump found Picasso’s studio door ajar, a mistake that just may have been intentional. The open door let Lump invite Picasso for a game of Kick the Stone, his favorite pastime. Quietly padding into the studio, Lump would drop a stone onto the floor, making sure it made a loud clunk, thus inviting Picasso to kick it around the room so Lump could give chase. If Picasso ignored him, the dachshund would pick up the stone again, throwing it down harder and louder. Picasso nearly always rewarded Lump’s insistence with some playtime.
Duncan explained Lump’s overall effect on the artist to “The Independent” in 2006.
“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.”
One day Picasso asked Duncan if Lump had ever seen a rabbit. The answer was that Lump had only lived in Duncan’s Rome apartment. No rabbits. Grabbing a sugary pastry box lying nearby, Picasso cut out the shape of a rabbit and gave it to Lump, who growled protectively and ran into the garden to devour the cardboard rabbit. Duncan records the incident in “Picasso & Lump.”
“My new rapid-firing Leica recorded forever the only time in the wildly eccentric world of modern art when someone ate art itself; fresh Picasso.”
When Picasso paid tribute to Diego Velázquez’ “Las Meninas,” painting 44 variations of the famous painting, he inserted Lump into 15 of them. He also sketched the dog numerous times, requiring only one or two lines to capture his shape and personality.
Years passed. In a 1964 visit to Picasso’s mansion, Duncan learned that Lump was ill, suffering from a spinal condition not uncommon to dachshunds. The poor dog was unable to use his back legs and had been placed under the care of a local vet in Cannes. The man considered the condition hopeless and therefore had stopped feeding him. Incensed, Duncan drove Lump back to Stuttgart, Germany, where the dog had been born. Duncan found a vet to treat him.
Little Lump responded to prolonged treatment, living another 10 years, although he walked “a bit like a drunken sailor,” according to Duncan’s account in “The Independent.”
Lump never lived with Picasso again, but their unique bond remained unbroken.
Lump died in 1973 at the age of 17.
Pablo Picasso joined him 10 days later.