An apprentice in Man Ray's studio and influenced in his origins by artists such as Brassaï, André Kertész or Eugène Atget, Bill Brandt (Hamburg, 1904-London, 1983), one of the founders of modern photography, conceived the language of photography as a powerful means of contemplating and understanding reality, but always from a primacy of aesthetic considerations over documentary ones. Published in the press or in books, some of his photographs quickly became iconic pieces, indispensable for understanding mid-century English society.
His work also expresses a permanent attraction to everything strange, to everything that causes attraction as strangeness and provokes unease. His aesthetics are thus close to the concept of "the sinister", understood as the opposite of anything familiar, or the usual. This element will act as a plot line for a professional and artistic production that, at first, seems erratic and dispersed.
His latest work shows a more experimental approach, a search for innovation through cutting and framing, evident above all in nude images.
The exhibition presents 186 photographs developed by Brandt himself who, over the course of nearly five decades of professional activity, encompassed almost all the principal photographic genres: reportage, portrait, the nude and landscape.
The structure of the exhibition, which is divided into six sections (“The early photographs”, “Upstairs, Downstairs”, “Portraits”, “Described Landscapes”, “Nudes” and “In praise of imperfection”), reveals how all these qualities - in which identity and the concept of “the uncanny” become the principal ones - blend together in the work of this eclectic artist. Above all Brandt was considered a flâneur or stroller in a way comparable to his admired Eugène Atget, whom he always considered one of his masters. The exhibition includes 186 photographs and is completed with a range of documentation, a number of Brandt’s cameras, an interview with the artist made by the BBC at the end of his life and examples of the illustrated press of the period that published some of his most iconic images. All this has been made possible courtesy of the Bill Brandt Archive in London and the Edwynn Houk Gallery in New York.
After being shown in Barcelona, the exhibition will travel to the Kunstfoyer Versicherungskammer Kulturstiftung in Munich (February to May 2021), Fundación MAPRE’s Sala Recoletos in Madrid (summer 2021) and the FOAM in Amsterdam (from late 2021 to March 2022).
KBr is the new Photography Centre with which Fundación MAPFRE launches a new stage in its intense dedication to artistic photography, one of its main areas of cultural activity since 2009. Two large exhibitions inaugurate this venue. In the main hall, the works of Bill Brandt, one of the most important European photographers of the 20th century, will be exhibited. The second room showcases, for the first time, our collection of photographs by Paul Strand, the artist's most extensive collection outside the United States.