One of the most renowned photographers of the interwar period, Brassaï's reputation rests on contributions to both commercial and avant-garde photography. His long-time friend, the author Henry Miller, nicknamed him "The Eye of Paris" for his devotion to the city, and he was close to many of its artists. His enduring relationship with Picasso in particular yielded many famous portraits of the artist, as well as important books. His first photo-book, published in 1933 and entitled Paris de nuit (published in English as Paris After Dark), remains the most famous exploration of the city's hidden underbelly, and is considered a classic of early street photography. His series of photo-books of Paris graffiti have also been hugely influential.
Born Gyula Halász, in the Transylvanian town of Brassó, he was trained as a painter in Budapest, and then in Berlin. He moved to Paris in 1924 and supported himself as a journalist, writing for publications throughout Europe and the United States (it was in Paris that he changed his name to Brassaï, meaning "from Brassó"). He only turned to photography to document his articles but eventually he became enchanted with the medium. At night he would venture out to capture the city's deserted streets, its shadowed monuments, and those who only emerged after dark – prostitutes, street cleaners, and rag pickers - many of whom he captured in candid photographs. From 1943-45, when working as a photographer was difficult due to the German occupation, Picasso encouraged him to return to drawing, and later sculpture.
He was also an accomplished writer and painter. But Brassaï's career as a photographer resumed after the war and continued through the late 1960s; it includes work for periodicals including Harper's Bazaar, Picture Post, and Surrealist magazines such as Verve and Minotaur. He is buried in Montparnasse Cemetery in Paris.
Brassaï was the subject of several major exhibitions during his lifetime, and recent retrospectives have included "Brassaï: The Soul of Paris," at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2000 (toured to the Hayward Gallery, London); and "Brassaï: The Eye of Paris," at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1998 (toured to J Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; National Gallery of art, Washington, D.C.). His publications include Le Paris secret des années 30 (1976); Conversations avec Picasso (1964); and, co-authored with Picasso, Graffiti (1960). He was the recipient of several major awards, including the Gold Medal for Photography at the Venice Biennale (1957), the first Grand Prix National de la Photographie (1978), the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres (1974), and the Chevalier de l'Order de la Legion d'honneur (1976). His film, Tant qu'il y aura des bêtes won Most Original Film at the 1956 Cannes Film Festival.
Edwynn Houk Gallery, in New York City, exhibited the twenty-three photographs from the Madame Brassai collection from September 13 - October 27, 2018. These vintage photographs were all produced in the 1930s. Each image reflects deeply upon a time and an era in Paris, which is both astounding, beautiful and provocative. Edwynn Houk wrote about the collection (in “Brassai: The Eye of Paris"), “For me, one of the greatest opportunities and privileges of the past decade has been to share in her intimate knowledge of Brassai’s life and career, as well as to have been personally involved in some of the fundamental research into his art.”
When an artist dies, the responsibility for the remaining artworks often falls to a spouse, a relative, or in some cases, a long time friend or studio associate. Some families set up estates, trusts, and other legal entities to actively manage the artist’s legacy, while others simply place the artworks in safe keeping of some kind, awaiting an opportunity to quietly place them with interested buyers.
Brassaï passed away in 1984, and since that time, there have been plenty of gallery shows, comprehensive museum retrospectives, and major sales of his work, so it would be reasonable to assume that whatever was left behind when he died was long ago picked over and sifted through by industrious gallery owners, museum curators, and other interested parties. But as is often the case, family members tend to squirrel away some of their favorites, living with them in their homes and keeping them out of the purview of the art market machine. And just when we think the well might have run dry for rare vintage examples of a deceased photographer’s best work, sometimes we get lucky and a few gems pop out from these family collections.
Such is the case with this show of Brassaï’s 1930s work drawn from the collection of Madame Brassaï.
Best known for his photographs taken during the 1930s, Brassaï took his most iconic photographs of Paris as the city transitioned between its Belle Epoque and Modern Era, including its conversion from gas to electric light. This era is amongst the richest periods of photography in the twentieth century, and Brassaï approached the time and its changes with particular distinction. His work shines light on the depth of nighttime as a subject itself, transforming the “cloak” of night into a stage for his subjects-as-archetypes.
Few locations inspire such immediate and glamorous imagery as Paris, and one photographer is known for capturing the city’s 20th-century nightlife. The work of Brassaï, the single-name Hungarian-French photographer, is being memorialized in an eponymous, 368-page tome, out now from Spanish publisher Fundación Mapfre. He moved to Paris in the glitzy, Fitzgerald-filled 1920s and documented France until his death, in 1984.
It’s hard to be stuck in a studio while longing to enjoy life outside. Brassaï, famed for his classic images of Paris, was neither a photographer nor a Parisian — he wanted to be a painter. But once he arrived in Paris in 1924, he gave up his brushes. The fact was, he was so attracted to Parisian life that he said he had no interest in confining himself “to the four walls of an atelier all alone.”
We snap a selfie with the tap of a finger. We're used to preserving smiling moments.
At the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, there's an exhibit right now which goes to darker places with a camera. The images in "Real Worlds" are from three major photographers, taken over half a century.
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA), presents Real Worlds: Brassaï, Arbus, Goldin, an exhibition that brings together the works of three of the most influential photographers of modern life. Drawn largely from MOCA’s extraordinary collection of photography, the exhibition provides a remarkable opportunity to explore the ways in which Brassaï (Gyula Halász) (b. 1899, Brassó, Hungary (now Romania); d. 1984, Èze, France), Diane Arbus (b.1923, New York; d. 1971, New York) and Nan Goldin (b. 1953, Washington, D.C.) use the camera to reflect and transform the world around them. Real Worlds features an exceptional trove of approximately one hundred works by the three artists, including Brassaï’s unforgettable images of the nocturnal denizens of Paris, Arbus’s most memorable and unsettling portraits, and Goldin’s searingly poignant documentation of herself and her community. The exhibition is structured around MOCA’s nearly comprehensive collection of photographs that appear in three legendary photobooks: Brassaï’s The Secret Paris of the 30’s (1976), the posthumous Diane Arbus: An Aperture Monograph (1972), and Goldin’s The Ballad of Sexual Dependency (1986).
“The photographer has a sense of the magic beneath the surface of reality", wrote Brassaï, whose work is getting a huge exhibition in Barcelona from 19 February-13 May.
It would be an understatement to say that the legacy of Gyula Halász – better known by his pseudonym, Brassaï – has been the object of extensive research and countless curatorial projects. Yet the Fundación Mapfre, the private institution that has shown the highest devotion to photography in Spain, has entrusted Peter Galassi, the former chief curator of photography at Museum of Modern Art, to conduct what will probably be the definitive exhibition about the Hungarian-French photographer at its Barcelona gallery, the Garriga i Nogués exhibition hall (19 February to 13 May).
No facet of Paris was off limits to Brassaï. Beginning in the 1930s, the transplanted Transylvanian photographer wandered the Parisian streets after dark, documenting prostitutes and lovers. He was a dedicated voyeur, and a master of the candid picture. He also had a passion for graffiti.
It's unlikely that any single artist has ever been -- or ever will be -- as intimately associated with Paris as the Hungarian-born photographer, writer and filmmaker Gyula Halász, known to the world as Brassaï. Through his gorgeous black-and-white portraits of Parisians in cafes, gardens and dance halls, Brassaï defined, and continues to define, an ideal of the City of Light that has lasted for generations. Countless people around the globe -- when they think of the Paris of the 1930s and 1940s -- envision the great, ancient city as Brassaï captured it through his artful lens.
Youths of my generation learned about Brassaï from his eye-opening Secret Paris of the 30s (1976). There were pictures of thugs, bums, prostitutes, brothels, drag balls, lesbian bars, interracial dances—who knew such things even existed forty years earlier? But then our fascinated naïvety was rewarded by further contemplation of the photographs, which were humane, sympathetic, endlessly inquisitive, beautifully composed, and drew every possible bit of poetry from the enveloping cloak of night—not more than half a dozen pictures were taken in daylight.
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On April 2 1957, the Hungarian-born photographer, Gyula Halász, known as Brassaï, and his wife, Gilberte, boarded the liner Liberté to sail from Le Havre to New York. Brassaï was almost 60, and his reputation was already established on both sides of the Atlantic, but this was his first trip to the US. He had made his name in Paris over 20 years before, with his book Paris de nuit, photographs of the city’s demimonde and their night-time haunts in bars, metro stations and backstreets. It was published in 1932, the year Brassaï met Picasso and the writers and artists who would work for Minotaure, the magazine edited by the surrealist André Breton. By the mid-1930s, Brassaï counted among his friends Salvador Dalí, Giacometti, Max Ernst, Man Ray, Georges Bataille, Le Corbusier, Samuel Beckett and, of course, Picasso: “The acquaintance and friendship of the most phenomenal artist of the century,” he wrote later, “were worth a trip to the moon!” He also began a lifelong friendship with the American writer Henry Miller. They met in Paris in 1930, when Miller was writing Tropic of Cancer. “The same Parisian world came to life in his writings and in my pictures…”
Brassaï's photographs of Paris in the thirties, nearly all of which were taken after dark, have come to define the seamy, seductive glamour of that city's night life. In these marvellous black-and-white images, cafés, night clubs, brothels, and public sidewalks become stage sets for charged, frequently erotic encounters. Among the nearly forty vintage prints gathered here are some of Brassaï's most vivacious pictures, including several little-known shots of couples at dance halls. There are also a few surprises, including three closeups of melted soap and a twist of raw cotton that slip between Surrealism, science fiction, and pornography.
Edwynn Houk built his reputation as the owner of the premier gallery in the Midwest. Based in Chicago, he became the country's acknowledged expert on Bill Brandt's work. In 1991, Houk teamed with Barry Friedman, an influential dealer specializing in Art Deco and avant-garde art, to open the Houk Friedman Gallery in New York. Last fall, however, Houk, 46, split with Friedman and opened his own gallery in Manhattan. "An art gallery is a single proprietor, a single entity, and it turns out we both had separate ideas of how it would function," he says. Houk now exclusively represents contemporary artists Sally Mann, Lynn Davis, Andrea Modica, and Elliott Erwitt and historical names like Bill Brandt, Brassaï, and Dorothea Lange. If there were any doubts about how Houk would do on his own, they were put to rest with his opening exhibition, featuring the latest work by Mann. (He has estimated that he sells one of Mann's prints a day.) At the same time, he premiered her work on the West Coast at the prestigious Gagosian Gallery in Los Angeles, once again forging an impressive alliance.