Author(s): Diane Elisabeth Poirier
Brassai (1899-1984), born in Hungary as Gyula Halasz, began his artistic apprenticeship in Berlin before moving to Paris in 1923 and launching a career that would establish him as a key figure in the evolution of twentieth-century photography. Brassai's importance as a photographer was recognized early in his career, affording him a privileged position from which to witness the varied aspects and milieus of Parisian life during the 1920s and 1930s. During and just after the war, Brassai collaborated with other artists and writers, and displayed his own artistic proficiency in multiple domains including theatre, cinema, sculpture, drawing, and writing. The late 1940s marked the beginning of a new period in Brassai's life, during which he married and became a naturalized French citizen. In the 1950s and early 1960s, he travelled extensively and executed his original graffiti compositions that would acquire international fame. Toward the end of his life, the artist returned to reading and writing. Brassai, who remained at the cutting edge of avant-garde, refused to espouse a single style; his rich body of work exceeds definition. This illustrated biography is based largely on unpublished documents and photographs from the artist's personal archives. The author shares stories told to her by Brassai's wife Gilberte and by several of the artist's friends, including Henry Miller, Miro, Henri Michaux, and Raymond Queneau. Filtering a rich variety of sources, "Brassai" offers a very intimate and multi-faceted view of the artist's life and of the bonds that link him and his legendary images to Paris.
Diane Elisabeth Poirier is an art historian specializing in the history of fashion and contemporary art. A friend of the Brassai family since her childhood, she has worked closely with Brassai's late wife, Gilberte to prepare this biography.