Brassaï  

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"For Weegee and Brassai alike, the only refuge from the night, the only sanctuary, was in the bars and cafes. Weegee's Montmartre was the Bowery." --"Night Light: Brassai and Weegee" (1976) by Colin Westerbeck

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Brassaï (pseudonym of Gyula Halász) (September 9, 1899July 8, 1984) was a Hungarian photographer, sculptor, and filmmaker who rose to fame in France, working mainly at night in Paris. He is played by Artus de Penguern in the film Henry & June.

One of his famous photos is of the Rue Foyatier.

Contents

1899-1930

Gyula Halász was born in Brassó (Braşov), in south-east Transylvania, Austria-Hungary (today in Romania), to a Hungarian father and an Armenian mother. He is sometimes incorrectly described as Jewish. At age three, his family moved to live in Paris, France for a year, while his father, a Professor of Literature, taught at the Sorbonne. As a young man, Gyula Halász studied painting and sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest, before joining a cavalry regiment of the Austro-Hungarian army, where he served until the end of the First World War. In 1920 Halász went to Berlin, where he worked as a journalist and studied at the Berlin-Charlottenburg Academy of Fine Arts.

In 1924 he moved to Paris where he would live the rest of his life. In order to learn the French language, he began teaching himself by reading the works of Marcel Proust. Living amongst the huge gathering of artists in the Montparnasse Quarter, he took a job as a journalist. He soon became friends with Henry Miller, Léon-Paul Fargue, and the poet Jacques Prévert.

1930-1955

Gyula Halász's job and his love of the city, whose streets he often wandered late at night, led to photography. He later wrote that photography allowed him to seize the Paris night and the beauty of the streets and gardens, in rain and mist. Using the name of his birthplace, Gyula Halász went by the pseudonym "Brassaï," which means "from Brasso." As Brassaï, he captured the essence of the city in his photographs, publishing his first book of photographs in 1933 titled "Paris de nuit" ("Paris by Night"). His efforts met with great success, resulting in his being called "the eye of Paris" in an essay by his friend Henry Miller. In addition to photos of the seedier side of Paris, he also provided scenes from the life of the city's high society, its intellectuals, its ballet, and the grand operas. He photographed many of his great artist friends, including Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Alberto Giacometti, plus many of the prominent writers of his time such as Jean Genet, Henri Michaux and others.

Brassaï's photographs brought him international fame leading to a one-man show in the United States at the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York, the Art Institute in Chicago, Illinois, and at New York City's Museum of Modern Art.

1955-1984

In 1956, his film, Tant qu'il y aura des bêtes, won the "Most Original Film" award at the Cannes Film Festival and in 1974 he was made Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters and given the Legion of Honor in 1976. Two years later, in 1978, he won the first "Grand Prix National de la Photographie" in Paris.

As well as a photographer, Brassaï was the author of seventeen books and numerous articles, including the 1948 novel Histoire de Marie, which was published with an introduction by Henry Miller. His Letters to My Parents and Conversations with Picasso, have been translated into English and published by the University of Chicago Press.

After 1961, when he stopped taking photographs, Brassaï concentrated his considerable energy on sculpting in stone and bronze. Several tapestries were made from his designs based on his photographs of graffiti.

Gyula Halász died on July 7, 1984 in Beaulieu-sur-Mer, Alpes-Maritimes, in the south of France and was interred in the Cimetière du Montparnasse in Paris.

In 2000, an exhibition of some 450 works by Brassaï was organized with the help of his widow, Gilberte at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Brassaï" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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