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Henri-Cartier Bresson

Biography

31 January - 09 April 2006

Henri-Cartier Bresson was born on the 22nd August, 1908 at Chanteloup, in the Seine et Marne region, and died 3rd August, 2004 at Montjustin in Provence. Impassioned by pictorial art, Henri Cartier-Bresson left his high school studies at the Lycée Condorcet in order to learn painting from André Lhote, then in Cambridge, England.

In 1931, he began to take photographs and set off to discover Europe with his signature camera, a Leice, in his pocket.

In 1933, Julien Lévy organised the first Henri Cartier-Bresson exhibition in his gallery in New York.

Henri Cartier-Bresson left for Mexico the following year where he would stay for a year. On his return to the United States in 1935, he introduced himself to cinema, and exhibited for the second time at the Julien Lévy Gallery alongside Walker Evans and Manuel Alvarez Bravo. In 1936, for three months, he became the second assistant to the filmmaker Jean Renoir.

Taken prisoner in 1940, Henri Cartier-Bresson escaped in February 1943 after many attempts. He then returned to photography and realized a number of portraits of artists that same year (Picasso, Matisse, Braque, Bonnard…). In 1944, he shot Le Retour [The Return], a documentary on the repatriation of prisoners of war and deportees. In 1946, he returned to New York, where his friends who believed he had disappeared had organised a posthumous exhibition in his honour at the Museum of Modern Art.

In 1947, he founded the Magnum Agency with Robert Capa, David Seymour, George Rodger and William Vandivert. He then continued his travels in the East, first in India in 1947 on the death of Gandhi, then in China, Indonesia, the USSR, and onto Cuba, Mexico and Japan.

He devoted himself to drawing from 1974, although portrait and landscape photography continued to interest him.

In 2003, the Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation was opened in the Monparnasse quarter in Paris. Henri Cartier-Bresson passed away on 3rd August 2004, at Montjustin, in Provence.

Henri Cartier-Bresson practiced, after the fashion of the Surrealists whom he knew, an automatic writing applied to the world of the image: ""To photograph"", he said, "" is to bring the head, the eye and the heart onto the same line of the surveyor. Photography is a mode of living."" His oeuvre draws on the better part of the obvious banality of the events around us in order to reveal in them, in the passage of a 'decisive instant', a universal dimension.

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Henri-Cartier Bresson

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