pseudonymof Gyula Halász) ( September 9, 1899– July 8, 1984) was a Hungarian photographer, sculptor, and filmmaker who rose to fame in France.
Gyula Halász was born in Brassó (
Braşov), in Romania, to a Hungarian father and an Armenian mother. [ [http://photography.about.com/library/weekly/aa040901a.htm] . "Brassaï's father was Hungarian, a professor of French Literature at the University of Brassó, but his mother was of Armenian origin."] He is sometimes incorrectly described as Jewish. [The following source describes Brassaï as "Hungarian-Jewish" ( [http://www.newstatesman.com/200602270034] and [http://yiddishbookcenter.org/pdf/pt/41/pt41_JewishEye.pdf] ) but the ethnic ancestry described in this biography (Halász Gyula: A századik év küszöbén. Bucharest, 1967) and the religious background described in his memoirs (Brassai: Letters to my Parents) contradict this.] At age three, his family moved to live in Paris, Francefor a year, while his father, a Professor of Literature, taught at the Sorbonne. As a young man, Gyula Halász studied painting and sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest, before joining a cavalry regiment of the Austro-Hungarian army, where he served until the end of the First World War. In 1920 Halász went to Berlin, where he worked as a journalist and studied at the Berlin- CharlottenburgAcademy of Fine Arts.
In 1924 he moved to Paris where he would live the rest of his life. In order to learn the French language, he began teaching himself by reading the works of
Marcel Proust. Living amongst the huge gathering of artists in the MontparnasseQuarter, he took a job as a journalist. He soon became friends with Henry Miller, Léon-Paul Fargue, and the poet Jacques Prévert.
Gyula Halász's job and his love of the city, whose streets he often wandered late at night, led to photography. He later wrote that photography allowed him to seize the Paris night and the beauty of the streets and gardens, in rain and mist. Using the name of his birthplace, Gyula Halász went by the
pseudonym"Brassaï," which means "from Brasso." As Brassaï, he captured the essence of the city in his photographs, publishing his first book of photographs in 1933 titled "Paris de nuit" ("Paris by Night"). His efforts met with great success, resulting in his being called "the eye of Paris" in an essay by his friend Henry Miller. In addition to photos of the seedier side of Paris, he also provided scenes from the life of the city's high society, its intellectuals, its ballet, and the grand operas. He photographed many of his great artist friends, including Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Alberto Giacometti, plus many of the prominent writers of his time such as Jean Genet, Henri Michauxand others.
Brassaï's photographs brought him international fame leading to a one-man show in the
United Statesat the George Eastman Housein Rochester, New York, the Art Institute in Chicago, Illinois, and at New York City's Museum of Modern Art.
In 1956, his film, "
Tant qu'il y aura des bêtes", won the "Most Original Film" award at the Cannes Film Festivaland in 1974 he was made Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters and given the Legion of Honorin 1976. Two years later, in 1978, he won the first "Grand Prix National de la Photographie" in Paris.
As well as a photographer, Brassaï was the author of seventeen books and numerous articles, including the 1948 novel "
Histoire de Marie", which was published with an introduction by Henry Miller. His " Letters to My Parents" and " Conversations with Picasso", have been translated into English and published by the University of ChicagoPress.
After 1961, when he stopped taking photographs, Brassaï concentrated his considerable energy on sculpting in stone and bronze. Several tapestries were made from his designs based on his photographs of graffiti.
Brassaï died on July 7, 1984 in
Beaulieu-sur-Mer, Alpes-Maritimes, in the south of France and was interred in the Cimetière du Montparnassein Paris. [Sayag and Lionel-Marie, eds., "". Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 2000, p. 305.] The copyright representative for the Estate of Brassaï is French photography agency Réunion des Musées Nationaux (RMN), [ [http://www.photo.rmn.fr/Static/English/General_Conditions.pdf RMN Copyright Conditions (PDF)] ] which also mangages more than 1,400 high resolution scans of Brassaï's work.
In 2000, an exhibition of some 450 works by Brassaï was organized with the help of his widow, Gilberte at the
Centre Georges Pompidouin Paris.
*Tucker, Anne Wilkes, with Richard Howard and Avis Berman. "Brassai: The Eye of Paris." Houston, Tex.: Houston Museum of Fine Arts, 1997. ISBN 0810963809
* [http://www.photo-seminars.com/Fame/Brassai.htm Brassai Biography]
* [http://www.masters-of-photography.com/B/brassai/brassai.html Masters of Photography]
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