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Brassaï (bourgeois Gyula Halász ; born September 9, 1899 in Kronstadt / Brassó, today Romanian Brașov , then Austria-Hungary , now Romania ; † July 7, 1984 in Nice ) was a French artist, especially photographer , of Hungarian origin.


Born as Gyula Halász , he took the pseudonym Brassaï (“the end of Brassó”). After studying in Hungary and Germany, he came to Paris in 1924 . His friend André Kertész persuaded him to capture his fascination for Parisian (night) life in photos. In 1933 his photo book Paris de Nuit appeared , which made him famous immediately. Shortly afterwards he was invited to the exhibition Photography: 1839–1937 at the Museum of Modern Art . Brassaï was versatile and did not limit himself to photography: he could draw, paint, sculpt and write. He cultivated friendships with the artist Pablo Picasso , the German-British photographer Bill Brandt and the American writer Henry Miller. His book Conversations avec Picasso , which he published in 1964, became famous . In 1975 his book Henry Miller - The Paris Years was published. Brassaï's grave is in the Montparnasse Cemetery in Paris.


Brassaï's work is groundbreaking for his time, as he mastered the then difficult technique of photography at night . He did not get stuck in the technical; rather, he expressed his love for Paris and its residents in his photographs. He had a keen eye “ for what goes on between the people of the shadow. ... Brassaï stepped into the bowels of the city and elicited human fates from them that we did not know ”(L. Fritz Gruber).

His pictures are always sincere and convincing because he did not attack the sitters, but - even if they belonged to the "underworld" - was able to win them over to a trusting collaboration. Even if he made weaknesses visible, he did not make a fool of himself; rather a faint smile is noticeable. Brassaï himself said: There are many photographs which are full of life but which are confusing and difficult to remember. It is the force of an image which matters. (German: "There are many photos that are full of life, but which are confusing and difficult to remember. It is the power of the image that counts.")

What is less well known is that Brassaï - alongside Man Ray - was also the photographer of the Surrealists . He absorbed crystals and growths in such a way that they were withdrawn from their usual context and mutated into free beings. In this way they were able to develop their imaginary power without any content constraints.

Brassaï was a pioneer in the field of graffiti photography. On night walks through Paris since the 1920s, he took a liking to the numerous murals carved into walls and began to capture them photographically. However, these photographs were not purely documentary, but were created through the grazing light that highlights the incisions in the walls and through the selection of the cutout with artistic aspirations. Brassaï published nine of these photographs in 1933 together with the short essay "From the cave wall to the factory wall" (French original title: Du mur des cavernes au mur d'usine ) on two pages in the Surrealist magazine Le Minotaure . There Brassaï writes a plea in poetic language for graffiti, which he appreciates as an original and authentic art form. He received a lot of positive feedback and encouraged other artists, such as Jean Dubuffet , to deal with walls and their graffiti.

While there were quite a few photo exhibitions of him in America and traveling exhibitions in Europe during his lifetime, in France he was particularly valued for his drawings and sculptures. For years he photographed travel reports for Harper's Bazaar about Greece, Turkey, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Morocco and from the USA about Louisiana and New York. The versatile artist also made two films and received an award for them in Cannes in 1956. At 75, he and his friend Ansel Adams were invited to Les Rencontres d'Arles and celebrated by the local young audience.

As a medalist , Brassaï u. a. a medal on Picasso for the Club français de la médaille.

Two simultaneous exhibitions in Berlin in June 2011 , curated by Kylikki Zacharias, were dedicated to different aspects of the retrospective on Brassaï's work. The Scharf-Gerstenberg Collection showed graffiti photos that the photographer had discovered and taken on Parisian house walls over many years. The neighboring Berggruen Collection offered artist portraits from Pablo Picasso to Henri Matisse to Georges Braque .


“There are many photos that are full of life but still difficult to remember. Effectiveness is important. "

- Brassaï

Other exhibitions (selection)

Works (books)

  • Paris de Nuit. 1933.
  • Conversation with Picasso. 1964.
  • Proust and the love of photography. Text and 16 pictures by B. From the Franz. Marcel Proust sous l'emprise de la photographie trans. Max Looser. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2001, ISBN 3-518-41217-5 . (English version also available)
  • Henry Miller - The Paris Years. 1975; English translation 1995.


  • L. Fritz Gruber (Ed.): Great Photographers of our Century. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1964, p. 84 ff.
  • Jean-Claude Gautrand (text): Brassaï, Universal Art. Taschen, Cologne 2004, ISBN 3-8228-3137-9 .
  • Alain Sayag, Annick Lionel-Marie (Eds.): Brassaï - The Monograph. (308 images; contributions by Henry Miller, Jacques Prévert et al.). Bulfinch Press / Little, Brown and Company, London / Boston 2000, ISBN 0-8212-2668-1 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Mechthild Haas: Jean Dubuffet. Materials for a "different" art after 1945. Berlin 1997 (Diss. Uni Hamburg 1996. p. 79)
  2. Brassaï: You mur des cavernes au mur d'usine. In: Minotaure 3/4, Paris 1933. pp. 6–7. (German translation by Johannes Stahl in: An der Wand. Graffiti between anarchy and gallery. Cologne 1989. pp. 194–195)
  3. In memoriam: Brassaï . Le club français de la medaille. Ed .: L'administration des monnaies et médailles. No. 85 . Paris 1984, p. 101 (French).
  4. Barbara Wiegand "Artists with the Camera", Brassai exhibitions in Berlin. Deutschlandradio Kultur on May 26, 2011.
  5. The surreal behind the real (accessed on March 13, 2015)
  6. Brassaï - The Eye of Paris ( Memento of the original from March 3, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (accessed on March 13, 2015) @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  7. Brassaï exhibition Berlin (accessed on March 13, 2015)
  8. Paris Blog: Brassaï - for the love of Paris (accessed on March 13, 2015)