Brassaï (Hungarian/French, 1899–1984), born Gyula Halasz, took his name from his hometown of Brasso, Transylvania, which later became Hungary. He studied painting and sculpture in the academies of Budapest and Berlin before joining the cavalry of the Austro-Hungarian army, where he served until the end of World War I. After his tenure in the army, he was drawn to Paris, where he had lived as a child while his father taught at the Sorbonne. Upon arriving in Paris in 1924, Brassaï gravitated towards the Montparnasse neighborhood where he began working as a painter and journalist. It was during this time that he met artists such as Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881–1973) and Joan Miró (Spanish, 1893–1983). Within the next decade, he realized his love for the photographic medium and began documenting Paris at night. His explorations of the city brought him into contact with prostitutes, madams, and pleasure-seekers, whose photographs were compiled into his 1933 publication Paris de Nuit.

With Paris offering endless promenades and an inexhaustible cast of intriguing characters, Brassaï was able to capture seemingly average citizens from a point of view that was anything but mundane. His nighttime photos have a grainy texture, and frequently lack the quality of a professional photograph. He preferred to shoot in this way because he believed that it reflected the darkness and peculiar personalities he encountered prowling the streets and bistros of nocturnal Paris. His published portfolio was lauded by the great British photographer Peter Henry Emerson (British, 1856–1936). Brassaï’s subsequent book Voluptés de Paris was published in 1935 and gave the artist international credibility.

During the German occupation in 1940, Brassaï headed to southern France, only to return to the City of Lights to rescue negatives he had hidden there. His inexhaustible dedication to his art earned him many awards and honors during his lifetime, including Most Original Film at the 1956 Cannes Film Festival and the Chevalier de l’Ordre de la Legion d’honneur in 1976. His photographs would later serve as the backdrop for Jacques Prévert’s ballet, Le Rendez-vous. He died in 1984, and is now buried in Montparnasse Cemetery in Paris. Since his death, several large scale retrospectives have been held in honor of his work.

Timeline

1899
Born: in Brasso, Transylvania (now Romanian)
1920
Moved to Berlin and studied at the Berlin-Charlottenburg Academy of Fine Arts, Germany
1924
Moved to Paris, France where he would live the rest of his life
1933
Published his first book of photographs titled "Paris after Dark"
1956
Won the "Most Original Film" award at the Cannes Film Festival with his film "Tant qu'il aura des bêtes"
1974
Named "Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres", Paris, France
1976
Received the "Legion of Honor", Paris, France
1978
Won the first "Grand Prix National de la Photographie" in Paris, France
1984
Died: in Eze, France

Exhibitions

2014
Pour l’amour de Paris, Hotel de Ville, Paris, France
2011
Galerie Karsten Greve, Paris
2010
Brassaï - la maison que j'habite,Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nancy, Nancy, France 9solo)
Brassaï - Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes - MNBA, Buenos Aires, Argentina (solo)
The Original Copy: Photography of Sculpture, 1839 to Today, MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
Laurence Miller Gallery, New York, NY
Paris des rêves, Hôtel de Ville, Paris, France
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nantes, France (solo)
Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, NY
Twilight Visions: Surrealism, Photography, and Paris, ICP International Center of Photography, New York, NY
2009
Brassaï - Paris in the 30's, Edwynn Houk Gallery, NewYork, NY (solo)
2008
Brassai: graffiti, Circulo de Bellas Artes, Madrid, Spain (solo)
2007
Hungarian House of Photography, Budapest, Hungary (solo)
Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin, Germany (solo)
2006
Paris by Night, Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai, China (solo)
Retrospective, Moscow House of Photography, Moscow, Russia (solo)
2005–2006
Brassai: The Photographer of the Night, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, DK (solo)
2005
Brassaï, Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, Tokyo, Japan (solo)
2004
Brassaï: Das Auge von Paris, Kunstmuseum, Wolfsburg, Germany (solo)
2003
Brassaï: Paris, Fundación Foto Colectania, Barcelona, Spain (solo)
2000
Retrospective, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France (solo)
1998
Brassaï: The Eye of Paris, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; J Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA; National Gallery of art, Washington, D.C. (solo)
1997
Brassai and Company: Photography of the 1930s, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL (solo)
1995
Photographies de Brassaï, Centre Pompidou - Musée National d´Art Moderne, Paris, France (solo)
1994
Brassaï - vom Surrealismus zum Informel, Kunsthalle Fridericianum, Kassel, Germany (solo)
1993
Brassaï, Fundación Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona, Spain (solo)
1988
Brassaï. Paris le jour, Paris la nuit,Musée Carnavalet, Paris, France (solo)
1984
Brassaï Memorial 1899-1984, MoMA - Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY (solo)
1973
Brassai Photographs, The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC (solo)
1968
Brassaï, MoMA - Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY (solo)
1954
Photographs by Brassai, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL (solo)

Public Collections

Boca Raton Museum of Art, Boca Raton, FL
The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, OH
MFAH - Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Houston, TX
Indianapolis Museum of Art - IMA, Indianapolis, IN
Los Angeles County Museum of Art - LACMA, Los Angeles, CA
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
MoMA - Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art - SFMOMA, San Francisco, CA
Museu d´Art Contemporani de Barcelona - MACBA, Barcelona, Spain
The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel
Centre Pompidou - Musée National d´Art Moderne, Paris, France<