Henri Cartier-Bresson (French, 2004)

Henri Cartier-Bresson (French, born August 22, 1908–died August 3, 2004) was an influential artist and photographer of the 20th century. Considered an early pioneer of photojournalism, Cartier-Bresson began his artistic career studying painting with André Lhote. He took his first photographs when he traveled to Africa in 1931, and he continued with this medium upon returning to Europe. Cartier-Bresson's photographs were published the following year in Arts et Metiers Graphiques.

The subsequent years brought the photographer's exhibitions to Spain, Mexico, and the United States. While in New York, he studied the art of motion pictures, and later assisted the director Jean Renoir with Partie de Campagne, a short film considered exemplary of Impressionist cinema. In 1937, Cartier-Bresson directed a documentary on healthcare in Spain, and photographed the coronation of Great Britain's George VI. His travels and subjects sometimes brought unwanted attention, such as when he was incarcerated in Nazi Germany in 1940, while serving in the French army. Escaping on his third attempt, he later covered the liberation of France, and filmed a documentary on war reparations. Many in the United States believed him to have perished in the war, so Cartier-Bresson traveled to New York in 1946 to open an exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art. The following year, he established Magnum Photos, a photographer-owned cooperative, with Robert Capa, David Seymour, William Vandivert, and George Rodger.

The following years found the photographer in the Far East, covering the death of Ghandi, the rise of Communist China, and the Indonesian independence movement. Cartier-Bresson spent most of the 1950s back in Europe publishing books of his photographic essays. The next decade, however, provided many more travel opportunities, including visits to Fidel Castro's Cuba, Japan, and the United States. While in America, he directed two documentaries for CBS News.

In 1975, he gave up photography to return to painting. His photographic legacy is summarized by his own book, Images à la Sauvette, or The Decisive Moment. Cartier-Bresson's ability to capture the split second when a decision was made or when a course was reversed brought power to his pictures, a power many succeeding generations of photographer still seek to re-create. The artist died on August 3, 2004.


Born in Chanteloup-en-Brie, France
Studied painting under Cubist painter and sculptor André Lhote at the Lhote Academy in Paris, France
Spent one year in the Ivory Coast, where he took his first photographs
Traveled throughout Europe with Andre Pieyre de Mandiargues and Leonor Fini
Studied Cinematography with Paul Strand, New York, USA
Discovered the Leica, his camera of choice thereafter
Worked as a production assistant for Jean Renoir in Paris, France
Captured by the Nazis while fighting in the French Army
Escaped from prison on his third attempt and subsequently joined an underground organization to assist prisoners and escapees
Began taking portraits of artists and writers for Editions Braun, including Henri Matisse, Pierre Bonnard, Georges Braque and Camille Claudel
Joined a group of professional photographers in order to document the liberation of Paris
Finished Le Retour (The Return), a documentary film about returning captives and deportees
Founded Magnum Photos with Robert Capa, George Rodger, David 'Chim' Seymour and William Vandivert
Overseas Press Club of America Award
A.S.M.P. Award
Overseas Press Club of America Award
Prix de la Société Française de Photographie
Overseas Press Club of America Award
Overseas Press Club of America Award
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Photographie
Culture Prize
Awarded the Grand Prix National from the French Ministry of Culture
Granted the Novecento Award by Jorge Luis Borges in Palermo, Italy
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY established the Henri Cartier-Bresson Prize
The Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation opened in Paris, France
Died in Montjustin, France


Motor City Muse: Detroit Photographs, Then and Now, The Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, USA
Light Sensitive, Nasher Museum of Art, Durham, USA
The Decisive Momen, Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa, Canada
Magnum Contacts, Magnum Photos Paris, Paris, France
Henri Cartier-Bresson - The Decisive Moment, Galerie Johannes Faber, Vienna, Austria
Henri Cartier-Bresson - Der Kompass im Auge: Amerika-Indien-Sowjetunion - KunstHaus Wien, Vienna, Austria
Henri Cartier-Bresson. Die Geometrie des Augenblicks - Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Wolfsburg, Germany
Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Man, The Image & The World, Queensland Art Gallery / Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, Australia
Henri Cartier-Bresson, Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland
Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Modern Century, The High Museum of Art, Atlanta, USA
Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Modern Century, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, USA
Henri Cartier-Bresson, Victor Barsokevitsch Photographic Centre, Kuopio, Finland
Very Early Prints, Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, USA
Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Modern Century, Eric Franck Fine Art, London, England
Henri Cartier-Bresson: A Retrospective, Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA
Musée de l'Art Moderne, Paris, France
Henri Cartier-Bresson. Russia - Palazzo Ducale, Genoa, Italy
Henri Cartier-Bresson: Die Europäer, Kunsthalle Erfurt, Erfurt, Germany
Henri Cartier-Bresson, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, France
Henri Cartier-Bresson, Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris, France
Henri Cartier-Bresson: Early Prints, Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York, USA
Henri Cartier-Bresson: Early Works, Stadtische Kunsthalle, Mannheim, Germany (solo)
National Gallery of Modern Art, Mumbai, India
Santa Catalina Castle, Cadiz, Spain
Henri Cartier-Bresson's Scrapbook: Photographs, 1932-46, International Center of Photography, New York, USA (solo)
Henri Cartier-Bresson: Di chi si tratta Forma, Centro Internazionale di Fotografia, Milan, Italy (solo)
Henri Cartier-Bresson: Retrospective, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, France
La Caixa, Barcelona, Spain
Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin, Germany
Museum of Modern Art, Rome, Italy
Museum of Modern Art, Edinburgh, Scotland
Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA
Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany
Baukunst Galerie, Cologne, Germany
Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin, Germany
Photographien und Zeichnungen, Baukunst Galerie, Cologne, Germany
Tete à Tete, National Portrait Gallery, London, England
Galerie Löhrl, Mönchengladbach, Germany
Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, USA
Line by Line, Royal College of Art, London, England
Kunsthaus Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland
Galerie Beyeler, Basel, Switzerland
Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, Düsseldorf, Germany
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Montreal, Canada
Henri Cartier-Bresson: 1974-1997, Galerie Claude Bernard, Paris, France (solo)
De Européenne, Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris, France
Henri Cartier-Bresson: Pen brush and Cameras, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, USA (solo)
Dessins e Hommage à Henri Cartier-Bresson, Centre Régional d’Art Contemporain Valence, Montbeliard, France (solo)
Dessins e première photos, La Caridad, Barcelona, Spain
Photo Dessin, Arles, France
Musée de Noyers-sur-Serein, France
Palazzo San Vitale, Parma, Italy
Centro de Exposiciones, Saragossa and Logrono, Spain
L’Amérique, FNAC, Paris, France
Hommage à Henri Cartier-Bresson, International Center of Photography, New York, USA (solo)
Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei, Taiwan
Galerie Arnold Herstand, New York, USA
Mannheimer Kunstverein, Mannheim, Germany
Fondation Pierre Gianadda, Martigny, Switzerland
Printemps Ginza, Tokyo, Japan
Chapelle de l’École des Beaux-Arts, Paris, France
Palais Lichtenstein, Vienna, Austria
Salzburger Landessammlung, Vienna, Austria
Institute français, Athens, Greece
Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, England
Henri-Cartier Bresson: Early Photographs, Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA
L’Institute français de Stockholm, Sweden
Tor Vergata University, Rome, Italy
Pavillon d’Arte contemporanea, Milan, Italy
Henri Cartier-Bresson in India, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France (solo)
Museum of Modern Art, Mexico City, Mexico
Paris à vue d’oil, Musée Carnavalet, Paris, France
Osaka University of Arts, Osaka, Japan
Printemps Ginza, Tokyo, Japan
Hommage a Henri Cartier-Bresson, Centre National de la Photographie, Paris, France (solo)
Henri Cartier-Bresson: Retrospective, Musée d’Art de la Ville, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France (solo)
Portraits, Galerie Eric Franck, Geneva, Switzerland
Carlton Gallery, New York, USA
Galerie Bischofberger, Zurich, Switzerland
Philipps Collection, Washington, D.C.
Photokina, Cologne, Germany
Photokina, Cologne, Germany
Henri Cartier-Bresson: Retrospective, Musée des Arts décoratifs, Paris, France (solo)
First exhibition in France at the Pavillon de Marsan, Musee du Louvre, Paris, France (solo)
Institute of Contemporary Art, London, England
Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA
Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City, Mexico
Julien Levy Gallery, New York, USA
Cercle Atheneo, Madrid, Spain

Public Collections

Stockholm Modern Museum, Stockholm, Sweden
Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris, France
Victoria & Albert Museum, London, UK
Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris, France
Musée Carnavalet, Paris, France
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
The Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA
International Center of Photography, New York, NY
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX
Kahitsukan Kyoto Museum of Contemporary Art, Kyoto, Japan
Museum of Modern Art, Tel Aviv, Israel


Scrapbook, Steidl, Germany
Portraits par Henri Cartier-Bresson, Thames & Hudson, France; (The portraits of Henri Cartier-Bresson) Thames & Hudson, UK
De qui s'agit-il ?, Gallimard/Bibliothèque Nationale de France; (The Man, the Image and the World) Thames & Hudson, UK; (Di chi si tratta ?) Contrasto, Italy
Orsenna, Erik and Gerard Mace. Cartier-Bresson: Landscapes. London: Thames and Hudson, 2001
Cartier-Bresson. Cartier-Bresson: Towards another fire. Paris: Nautilus, 2000
Groumbursch, Ernst H. Cartier-Bresson: Portraits. London: Thames and Hudson, 1998
Fuentes, Carlos. Cartier-Bresson: Mexican Notebooks. London: Thames and Hudson, 1994
Feyder, Vera and Andre Pieryre de Mandi Argles. Cartier-Bresson: Paris. London: Thames and Hudson, 1994
Mora, Giles. Cartier-Bresson: America. New York: Bulfinch, 1991
Clair, Jean. Cartier-Bresson: The Europeans. London: Thames and Hudson, 1987
Statyajit, Ray and Yves Vwquad. Cartier-Bresson: In India. London: Thames and Hudson, 1987
Galossi, Peter. Cartier-Bresson: The Early Work. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1987
de Zoete Delpire, Béryl and Artaud Antonin. Les Danses à Bali. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1952
Cartier-Bresson. The Decisive Moment. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1952
Kirstein, Licoln. The Photographs of Henri Cartier-Bresson. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1947 (catalogue)