Author(s): Gilberte Brassai
Hungarian-born photographer Brassai dedicated more than fifty years of his artistic creation to capturing his adoptive city in all its facets. From winsome children playing in the public gardens to amorous couple on amusement park attractions, from opera and ballet stars to prostitutes and vagrants, from cobblestone alleyways to ephemeral graffiti, his photographs embody the very essence of Paris. In an interview shortly before his death in 1984, he explained how Paris had served as an infinite source of inspiration and had reined as the unifying theme that characterized each phrase of his artistic work. He first discovered Paris as a child in the 1900s, during the time of Marcel Proust, and the city came alive as he walked the bucolic pathways of the Bois de Boulogne, took in the sites from the cross-town bus, or spent afternoons navigating a miniature sailboat in a pond in the Luxembourg gardens; he would later commemorate these childhood memories on film. Throughout the Roaring Twenties, Pariss art scene was abuzz and upon his return from Berlin, Brassai befriended Henry Miller, Dali, Picasso, Matisse, Giacometti, and Jacques Prevert, and produced some of his most iconic photographs of nocturnal Paris. He would go on to sublimate the individual neighborhoods and commemorate the enduring romance of the city with images of elegant window-shoppers on the rue de Rivoli, coal workers along the banks of the Seine, sunlight striking a contrast on the gargoyles of Notre Dame, velvety fog enveloping the Pont des Arts at night, or the pure majesty of monuments such as the Eiffel Tower or the Arc de Triomphe. In this new collection of his work, Agnes de Gouvian Saint-Cyr guides us expertly through Brassais beloved Paris.
Brassai (1899-1984) is one of the great figures of twentieth-century photography. Agnes de Gouvion Saint-Cyr is the former Inspector-General for photography for the French Ministry of Culture.