Logo Fundació Antoni Tàpies
(Brassó, Transilvania, Hungary, 1899 - Beaulieu-sur-Mer, 1984)

Brassaï

1899 Gyula Halász was born on September 9, 1899 in what was then Brassó, Hungary and is now Brasov, Rumania. In 1922 he adopted the name of his birthplace as his own.

1921-1922 He went to Berlin at the end of December 1920 and quickly became part of an artistic circle that included Moholy-Nagy, Kandinsky, Kokoschka and others. He discovered Goethe, whose philosophy was to influence him throughout his life.

1924 He arrived in Paris, never again to return to his native land. He earned his living by working for a Hungarian sports magazine and several German periodicals.

1925 A friend introduced him to Atget, a photographer whose work fascinated Brassaï.

1926 He met the Hungarian photographer André Kertész in Montparnasse and occasionally accompanied him on his assignments.

1929 A friend lent him a simple camera and he began taking his first photographs. He then decided to buy a Voigtlander.

1930-1931 He started photographing everyday objects and while strolling through Paris he took his first night photographs of the deserted city. He set up a darkroom in his hotel and began developing and printing his own photographs. He met Henry Miller and introduced him to the bizarre side of Paris.

1932 He published Paris de nuit, the fruit of his nocturnal wanderings. He began searching out graffiti on the walls of Paris and did a series of photographs of the city. A friend introduced him to Picasso, who asked Brassaï to photograph his sculptures at the castle in Boisgeloup and in his studio on the rue la Boétie. These photographs were published the following year in the first issue of Minotaure.

1933 Through Minotaure and Albert Skira he met the Surrealist poets and writers with whom he subsequently collaborated: André Breton, Paul Eluard, Robert Desnos, Benjamin Péret, Man Ray and others. Through Picasso he met Salvador Dalí and Gala. Brassaï’s Sculptures involontaires, which were photographs of everyday objects, appeared in Minotaure. His nude photographs appeared for the first time in Variétés du corps humain. His collection of Ateliers d’artistes revealed the working places of Picasso, Henri Laurens, Aristide Maillol, Jacques Lipchitz and Alberto Giacometti. He had his first one-man show in London, exhibiting his photographs of Paris by night.

1935 Brassaï settled permanently in the 14th arrondissement, where his most celebrated photographs were taken. He worked for the Rapho photo agency. He started using a Rolleiflex. He met Henri Matisse and did his first portraits of the artist working on his sculptures.

1937 He worked for Harper’s Bazaar, doing portraits of numerous writers and painters and photographing their studios. Among his subjects were Aristides Maillol, Georges Braque, Samuel Beckett, Eugène Ionesco, Thomas Mann and Robert Graves

1939 At the request of Matisse, he did a series of Nus à l’atelier. He also did a series of portraits of «Picasso at work» for Life magazine.

1940-1942 The exodus from France began with the outbreak of World War II, but Brassaï decided to catch the last refugee train back to Paris in order to retrieve his negatives. Although he was invited to settle in the United States, he refused to leave France. He was much sought after by the Germans, but refused to apply for a permit to take photographs and was therefore forbidden to publish or practice his profession.

1943 At Picasso’s request he began photographing the artist’s sculptures in his studio at 7 rue des Grands-Agustins: a job that was to keep him busy until the end of 1946.

1944 He photographed the Liberation of Paris.

1947 He quit working for the Rapho-Grosset agency. He became a French citizen.

1948 He married Gilberte-Mercédés Boyer.

He published a long poem, Histoire de Marie, which was the story of his housekeeper’s life.

1949-1960 He travelled for Harper’s Bazaar.

1952 Editions Neuf published the book Brassaï. A group of students from Nancy organized Brassaï’s first one-man show in France. The exhibition was held at the Musée des Beaux-Arts.

1956 His film Tant qu’il y aura des bêtes, shot at the Vincennes Zoo, won the Cannes Festival prize for the most original film. Edward Steichen organized a successful exhibition of Brassaï’s Graffiti at The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

1957 He was awarded the Gold Medal at the Venice Biennial of Photography. He used a Leica to take color photographs.

1958 Unesco’s architects chose one of Brassaï’s panels, Les Roseaux to represent photography in the Unesco building.

1960 He completed the book Graffiti.

1963 The Bibliothèque Nationale organized a Brassaï retrospective in Paris.

1964-1965 Brassaï published Conversations avec Picasso, which was illustrated with more than fifty of his photographs.

1966 Both Brassaï and Ansel Adams were made honorary members of the American Society of Magazine Photographers.

1968 John Szarkowski organized a retrospective of his photographs at The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

1973 He went to Washington, D.C. for a one man show at the Corcoran Gallery of Art.

1974 Brassaï and Ansel Adams were the guests of honor at the Rencontres internationales de la photographie in Arles.

1975 He published his book Henry Miller grandeur nature, which was followed in 1978 by Henri Miller rocher heureux.

1976 He published Le Paris secret des années 30. The Marlbrough Gallery in New York held a major exhibition of his photographs. Brassaï was made a Knight of the French Legion of Honor.

1978 He was awarded the first national grand prize for photography in Paris.

1979 New York and London celebrated Brassaï’s eightieth birthday with retrospective exhibitions of his work.

1982 Les artistes de ma vie was published.

1984 Brassaï died on July 7th in Beaulieu-sur-Mer. He was buried in Montparnasse cemetery in the heart of the Paris he had paid tribute to for more than half a century.

The information regarding participants is taken from a file which has not been updated since the completion date of each project.

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