Henri Cartier-Bresson (French, August 22, 1908–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 (French, 1885–1962). 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 (French, 1894–1979) with Partie de Campagne, a short film considered exemplary of Impressionist cinema. In 1937, Cartier-Bresson directed a documentary on healthcare in Republican 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 (Hungarian, 1913–1954), David Seymour (Polish, 1911–1956), William Vandivert (American, 1912–1989), and George Rodger (British, 1908–1995).

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.

Timeline

1908
Born in Chanteloup-en-Brie, France
1927–1928
Studied painting under Cubist painter and sculptor André Lhote at the Lhote Academy in Paris, France
1931
Spent one year in the Ivory Coast, where he took his first photographs
Traveled throughout Europe with Andre Pieyre de Mandiargues and Leonor Fini
1932
Studied Cinematography with Paul Strand, New York, USA
1932
Discovered the Leica, his camera of choice thereafter
1936–1939
Worked as a production assistant for Jean Renoir in Paris, France
1940
Captured by the Nazis while fighting in the French Army
1943
Escaped from prison on his third attempt and subsequently joined an underground organization to assist prisoners and escapees
1943
Began taking portraits of artists and writers for Editions Braun, including Henri Matisse, Pierre Bonnard, Georges Braque and Camille Claudel
1944–1945
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
1947
Founded Magnum Photos with Robert Capa, George Rodger, David 'Chim' Seymour and William Vandivert
1948
Overseas Press Club of America Award
1953
A.S.M.P. Award
1954
Overseas Press Club of America Award
1959
Prix de la Société Française de Photographie
1960
Overseas Press Club of America Award
1964
Overseas Press Club of America Award
1975
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Photographie
1975
Culture Prize
1981
Awarded the Grand Prix National from the French Ministry of Culture
1986
Granted the Novecento Award by Jorge Luis Borges in Palermo, Italy
1988
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY established the Henri Cartier-Bresson Prize
2003
The Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation opened in Paris, France
2004
Died in Montjustin, France

Exhibitions

2013
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
2012
Magnum Contacts, Magnum Photos Paris, Paris, France
Henri Cartier-Bresson - The Decisive Moment, Galerie Johannes Faber, Vienna, Austria
2011
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
2010
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
2009
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
2008
Henri Cartier-Bresson: Early Works, Stadtische Kunsthalle, Mannheim, Germany (solo)
National Gallery of Modern Art, Mumbai, India
Santa Catalina Castle, Cadiz, Spain
2007
Henri Cartier-Bresson's Scrapbook: Photographs, 1932-46, International Center of Photography, New York, USA (solo)
2006
Henri Cartier-Bresson: Di chi si tratta Forma, Centro Internazionale di Fotografia, Milan, Italy (solo)
2003–2005
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
2004
Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany
Baukunst Galerie, Cologne, Germany
Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin, Germany
1998–1999
Photographien und Zeichnungen, Baukunst Galerie, Cologne, Germany
1998
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
1997
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
1996
Henri Cartier-Bresson: Pen brush and Cameras, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, USA (solo)
1995
Dessins e Hommage à Henri Cartier-Bresson, Centre Régional d’Art Contemporain Valence, Montbeliard, France (solo)
1994
Dessins e première photos, La Caridad, Barcelona, Spain
1993
Photo Dessin, Arles, France
1992
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)
1991
Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei, Taiwan
1990
Galerie Arnold Herstand, New York, USA
1989
Mannheimer Kunstverein, Mannheim, Germany
Fondation Pierre Gianadda, Martigny, Switzerland
Printemps Ginza, Tokyo, Japan
Chapelle de l’École des Beaux-Arts, Paris, France
1988
Palais Lichtenstein, Vienna, Austria
Salzburger Landessammlung, Vienna, Austria
Institute français, Athens, Greece
1987
Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, England
Henri-Cartier Bresson: Early Photographs, Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA
1986
L’Institute français de Stockholm, Sweden
Tor Vergata University, Rome, Italy
Pavillon d’Arte contemporanea, Milan, Italy
1985
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
1984
Osaka University of Arts, Osaka, Japan
1983
Printemps Ginza, Tokyo, Japan
1982
Hommage a Henri Cartier-Bresson, Centre National de la Photographie, Paris, France (solo)
1981
Henri Cartier-Bresson: Retrospective, Musée d’Art de la Ville, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France (solo)
1980
Portraits, Galerie Eric Franck, Geneva, Switzerland
1975
Carlton Gallery, New York, USA
Galerie Bischofberger, Zurich, Switzerland
1964
Philipps Collection, Washington, D.C.
1963
Photokina, Cologne, Germany
1956
Photokina, Cologne, Germany
1955
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)
1952
Institute of Contemporary Art, London, England
1947
Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA
1934
Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City, Mexico
1933
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

Literature

2006
Scrapbook, Steidl, Germany
2006
Portraits par Henri Cartier-Bresson, Thames & Hudson, France; (The portraits of Henri Cartier-Bresson) Thames & Hudson, UK
2003
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
2001
Orsenna, Erik and Gerard Mace. Cartier-Bresson: Landscapes. London: Thames and Hudson, 2001
2000
Cartier-Bresson. Cartier-Bresson: Towards another fire. Paris: Nautilus, 2000
1998
Groumbursch, Ernst H. Cartier-Bresson: Portraits. London: Thames and Hudson, 1998
1994
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
1991
Mora, Giles. Cartier-Bresson: America. New York: Bulfinch, 1991
1987
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
1954
de Zoete Delpire, Béryl and Artaud Antonin. Les Danses à Bali. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1952
1952
Cartier-Bresson. The Decisive Moment. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1952
1947
Kirstein, Licoln. The Photographs of Henri Cartier-Bresson. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1947 (catalogue)