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Brassai (1899-1984)

Aliases: Brassaï; Gyula Halász

Professions: Photographer; Sculptor

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  • BRASSAÏ (1899-1984)

  • BRASSAÏ (1899-1984)

  • Couple d'amoureux dans un petit café, quartier Italie, c. 1932

  • BRASSAÏ (1899-1984)

Brassai Biography

(b. September 9 1899, Brassó, Hungary; d. July 8 1984, Eze, Alpes-Maritimes, France) Hungarian photographer. Born as Gyula Halász in Brassó, Hungary (now part of Romania), his family moved to Paris when Brassai was three years old. Brassai studied painting and sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest. He joined the Austro-Hungarian army and served until the end of the First World War. In 1920 Brassai worked as a journalist in Berlin while studying painting at the Berlin-Charlotten Academy of Fine Art. In 1924, Brassai moved to Paris to work as a journalist; here he created his alias (meaning “from Brassó”) and began taking photographs. The combination of a job in journalism and a strong love for the city led him to wander the streets at night capturing the essence of Parisian life in his photography. “He had an extraordinary talent for photographing people in interiors lit by shocking and disruptive flash powder in a way that looks entirely spontaneous and natural.”* In 1933, Brassai published Paris de Nuit, a collection of his photographs encompassing all sides of the city, from more risqué subjects of nudity, crime and prostitution to the city’s high society; important intellectuals, ballets and grand operas. His friend Henry Miller called Brassai “the eye of Paris.” Along with photographing strangers, Brassai photographed many of his artist friends including Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Alberto Giacometti. After 1961, Brassai concentrated solely on sculpting in stone and bronze. The artist died in 1984, in Eze, Alpes-Maritimes in the south of France. In 2000, his widow Gilberte organized an exhibition composed of nearly 450 works at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. (*Credit: Christie’s, New York, April 11, 2008, Photographs, Lot 417)

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