Brassaï (pseudonym of Gyula Halász) (9 September 1899–8 July 1984) was a Hungarian photographer, sculptor, and filmmaker who rose to international fame in France in the 20th century. He was one of the numerous Hungarian artists who flourished in Paris beginning between the World Wars. In the early 21st century, the discovery of more than 200 letters and hundreds of drawings and other items from the period 1040-1984 has provided scholars with material for understanding his later life and career.
Gyula (Jules) Halász (the Western order of his name) was born in Brassó (Braşov), in Romania, to an Armenian mother and a Hungarian father. He grew up speaking Hungarian.Some sources disagree about his Jewish ancestry.When he was three, his family lived in Paris for a year, while his father, a professor of French literature, taught at the Sorbonne.
As a young man, Gyula Halász studied painting and sculpture at the Hungarian Academy of Fine Arts (Magyar Képzomuvészeti Egyetem) in Budapest. He joined 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 for the Hungarian papers Keleti and Napkelet.He started studies at the Berlin-Charlottenburg Academy of Fine Arts (Hochschule für Bildende Künste), now Universität der Künste Berlin. There he became friends with several older Hungarian artists and writers, including the painters Lajos Tihanyi and Bertalan Pór, and the writer [[György Bölöni, each of whom later moved to Paris and became part of the Hungarian circle.
In 1924, Halasz moved to Paris, where he would live the rest of his life. To learn the French language, he began teaching himself by reading the works of Marcel Proust. Living among the gathering of young artists in the Montparnasse quarter, he took a job as a journalist. He soon became friends with the American writer Henry Miller, and the French writers Léon-Paul Fargue and Jacques Prévert. In the late 1920s, he lived in the same hotel as Tihanyi.
Halász's job and his love of the city, whose streets he often wandered late at night, led to photography. He first used it to supplement some of his articles for more money, but rapidly explored the city through this medium, in which he was tutored by his fellow Hungarian André Kertész. He later wrote that he used photography "in order to capture the beauty of streets and gardens in the rain and fog, and to capture Paris by night".
Using the name of his birthplace, Gyula Halász went by the pseudonym "Brassaï," which means "from Brasso."
Brassaï captured the essence of the city in his photographs, published as his first collection in 1933 book entitled Paris de nuit (Paris by Night). His book gained 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, Brassai portrayed scenes from the life of the city's high society, its intellectuals, its ballet, and the grand operas. He had been befriended by a French family who gave him access to the upper classes. Brassai photographed many of his artist friends, including Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Alberto Giacometti, and several of the prominent writers of his time, such as Jean Genet and Henri Michaux.
Young Hungarian artists continued to arrive in Paris through the 1930s and the Hungarian circle absorbed most of them. Kertèsz emigrated to New York in 1936. Brassai befriended many of the new arrivals, including Ervin Marton, a nephew of Tihanyi, whom he had been friends with since 1920. Marton developed his own reputation in street photography in the 1940s and 1950s. Brassaï continued to earn a living with commercial work, also taking photographs for the United States magazine Harper's Bazaar.
He was a founding member of the Rapho agency, created in Paris by Charles Rado in 1933.
Brassai's photographs brought him international fame. In 1948 he had a one-man show in the United States at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York City, which traveled to the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York; and the Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois.MOMA exhibited more of Brassai's works in 1953, 1956, and 1968.
In 1948 Brassai married Gilberte Boyer, a French woman. She worked with him in supporting his photography. In 1949 he became a naturalized French citizen after years of being stateless.
In 1956, Brassai directed a film Tant qu'il y aura des bêtes (As long as there will be animals), shot at the Paris Vincennes Zoo. It won the "Most Original Film" award that year at the Cannes Film Festival. In the 1970s, he received French national awards for his artistic contributions and especially his photography.
Brassaï wrote 17 books and numerous articles, including the 1948 novel Histoire de Marie, published with an introduction by Henry Miller. Conversations with Picasso (19xx) was translated into 12 languages. His Letters to My Parents (1980), from his 20-year correspondence with his parents during his younger years in Paris, was published in Bucharest with the collaboration of his father, younger brother Kálmán, and Andre Horváth. Both books were translated into English and published in the late 1990s by the University of Chicago Press (see below).
After 1961, when he stopped taking photographs, Brassaï concentrated on sculpting in stone and bronze. Several tapestries were made from his designs based on his photographs of graffiti.
Brassaï died on 7 July 1984 in Beaulieu-sur-Mer, Alpes-Maritimes in the south of France, and was interred in the Cimetière du Montparnasse in Paris.
The copyright representative for the Estate of Brassaï is the French photography agency, Réunion des Musées Nationaux (RMN), which also manages more than 1,400 high-resolution scans of Brassaï's work.
Brassaï es el pseudónimo de Gyula Halász (1899-1984), fotógrafo húngaro conocido por sus trabajos sobre París, ciudad donde desarrolló su carrera.
Gyula Halász nació el 9 de septiembre de 1899 en Brassó, entonces parte de Hungría, hoy perteneciente a Rumania. A los tres años su familia se trasladó a París durante un año mientras su padre, profesor de literatura, enseñaba en la universidad de La Sorbona. De joven, Gyula Halász estudió pintura y escultura en la Academia de Bellas Artes de Budapest antes de alistarse en el regimiento de caballería de la armada austrohúngara hasta el final de la Primera Guerra Mundial. En 1920 Halász se estableció en Berlín donde trabajó como periodista y estudió en la Academia de Bellas Artes de Berlín-Charlottenburg.
En 1924 se trasladó a París donde vivió por el resto de su vida. Empezó a aprender francés leyendo la obra de Marcel Proust y, viviendo entre los numerosos artistas del barrio de Montparnasse, empezó a trabajar como periodista. Pronto estableció amistad con Henry Miller, Léon-Paul Fargue y el poeta Jacques Prévert.
El trabajo de Gyula Halász y su amor por la ciudad, cuyas calles recorría asiduamente de noche, le llevó a la fotografía. Más tarde escribiría que la fotografía le permitía atrapar la noche de París y la belleza de las calles y jardines, bajo la lluvia y la niebla. Usando el nombre de su lugar de nacimiento, Gyula Halász se hizo conocer con el pseudónimo de "Brassaï", que significa "de Brassó". Brassaï capturó la esencia de la ciudad en sus fotografías, publicando su primer libro fotográfico en 1933. Sus esfuerzos tuvieron gran éxito, siendo llamado "El ojo de París" en un ensayo por su amigo Henry Miller. Además de fotos del lado sórdido de París, también produjo escenas de la vida social de la ciudad, sus intelectuales, su ballet y grandes óperas. Fotografió a muchos de sus amigos artistas, incluidos Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Alberto Giacometti y a muchos de los prominentes escritores de la época como Jean Genet y Henri Michaux.
En 1956, su película Tant qu'il aura des bêtes ganó el premio a la película más original en el Festival de Cannes y el 1978 ganó el Gran Premio Nacional de la Fotografía de París.
Considerado por muchos como uno de los grandes fotógrafos del siglo XX, Gyula Halász murió el 8 de julio de 1984 en Eze, Alpes-Maritimes, al sur de Francia y fue enterrado en el cementerio de Montparnasse de París.
En 2000, una exposición de 450 de sus obras fue organizada con la ayuda de su viuda, Gilberte, en el centro Georges Pompidou de París.