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Bill Brandt (British, 1904–1983)
LOT ID: 75932
Picadilly Circus Before the Black-Out, ie. circa 1939

Silver Print, gelatin silver print
9.75 х 7.75 in. (24.76 x 19.68 cm.)
Stamped, Artist stamp on verso, inscribed in the artist's hand. Annotated in black ink on verso - "Picadilly Circus (London) before the black-out. Picadilly Circus is centre of London's entertainment & theatre world." Numerical annotations in pencil along bottom edge verso.
Print/Casting Year ie. circa 1939
Lot description
Vintage gelatin silver print from Brandt's work in London during the 1930s.

Bill Brandt (1904–83), the most admired British photographer of the 20th century. He was also, and remains, one of the most mysterious. He liked it to be thought that he had been born in south London but he was actually born in Hamburg, the son of an English father and German mother. The Brandts were international merchants and bankers. Bill Brandt chose a quite different career. His imagination was formed by a cosmopolitan background, including his native Germany (which he came to hate), a crucial period of two and a half years' treatment for tuberculosis in Switzerland in the mid‐1920s, training in a Vienna portrait studio in 1928, followed by three months studying with Man Ray in Paris—in the heyday of Surrealism—in1929. It was in England, where Brandt settled in 1931, that his varied apprenticeship came to fruition. His first book, The English at Home (1936), made full use of the upstairs/downstairs lives in the country houses and London mansions of his banker uncles. Brandt presented a series of piercingly vivid photographs but also powerful juxtapositions from plate to plate. The newly invented flash bulb had become available in 1931 and Brandt—a warm admirer of Brassaï—made good use of it in this and his next book, A Night in London (1938). Once more he explored all levels of society. In 1937, his concern aroused by the Jarrow Crusade (1936), Brandt photographed in the north of England, creating such stark classics as Coal Searcher Going Home, Heworth, Tyneside. Brandt was entranced by the blacked‐out London of the ‘Phoney War’ period, which he captured in a series of long exposures. For the Ministry of Information he photographed the Underground stations, turned into ad hoc bomb shelters during the Blitz of 1940. He was constantly at work during the war, photographing all manner of subjects for leading magazines such as Lilliput and Picture Post. This period is summed up in his Camera in London (1948), which also contains his longest—if brief—writing on photography. Among his major subjects during the 1940s were portraiture and landscape. Literary Britain (1951) paired landscapes with the words of the writers associated with them. In 1945 Brandt acquired a Kodak police camera with a wide‐angle lens and began another project—the prolonged photographic study which was eventually published as Perspective of Nudes (1961). He wanted, he said, to see like a mouse, a fish, or a fly. With this camera, and later a Hasselblad with a Superwide lens, Brandt reinvented the nude. He summed up his great career with the book Shadow of Light in 1966, followed in 1969 by a retrospective at MoMA, New York. It was shown at the Hayward Gallery, London, and other British centres and changed the climate of opinion about photography as an art.[]

Brandt, Bill. Bill Brandt / introduction by Ian Jeffrey. New York : Thames and Hudson, 2007.

Brandt, Bill. Brandt : the photography of Bill Brandt / foreword by David Hockney ; introductory essay by Bill Jay ; the career by Nigel Warburton. New York : Henry N. Abrams, 1999.

Brandt, Bill. Bill Brandt : photographs, 1928-1983 / edited with an introduction by Ian Jeffrey. New York : Thames and Hudson, 1994, c1993.

Brandt, Bill. Bill Brandt : selected texts and bibliography / edited by Nigel Warburton. New York : G.K. Hall, 1993.

Mellor, David. Bill Brandt, behind the camera : photographs, 1928-1983 / introductions by Mark Haworth-Booth ; essay by David Mellor. New York, N.Y. : Aperture, c1985.

Brandt, Bill. London in the thirties / Bill Brandt ; introduction by Mark Haworth-Booth. New York : Pantheon Books, c1983.

Brandt, Bill. Portraits : photographs / by Bill Brandt ; introduction by Alan Ross. Austin : University of Texas Press, 1982.
Picadilly Circus Before the Black-Out by Bill Brandt
  • Picadilly Circus Before the Black-Out by Bill Brandt
  • Picadilly Circus Before the Black-Out by Bill Brandt
  • Picadilly Circus Before the Black-Out by Bill Brandt
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