Biography of Gyula "Brassaï" Halasz (1899-1984)

Hungarian photographer born in Brasso in 1899 and died in 1984 in Nija (France), whose real name was Gyula Halász. Known under the pseudonym of Brassaï (of Brasso, his hometown), although their origin was Hungarian, he acquired French citizenship in 1948.

He moved to Budapest in 1918 to study, for two years, fine arts, and continued his studies in Berlin between 1920 and 1922; He met and frequented the circles of artists more avant-garde of the time such as Vasili Kandinsky , László Moholy-Nagyand Oskar Kokoschka.

In 1924, he travelled to Paris, where he began working as a journalist. The night life of the streets, the gatherings of cafés, etc., you impressed so much that in his work a repetition of these themes can be seen in the series called "night". In this city he met the photographer Eugene Atget, which marked all his work and made that reference in all his production; in 1926 he met his fellow countryman André Kertész, who accompanied him in his literary articles and which lent him his photographs to document items; It was he who encouraged him to devote himself to photography.

His training as a photographer is self-taught, until the year 1929 did not begin to taking photographs, because for him this art was a way too mechanical and impersonal. These first images took them with a borrowed camera and, soon after, decided to acquire an own (Voigtlander). Their night walks around the city began to photograph the streets and the city's deserted squares, and he realized that the images had an artistic quality comparable to the paintings. With these and other images published the book Paris la Nuit (1932), which was critically acclaimed.

The images of the night Paris remind theatrical sets; architectures are overshadowed by poor lighting in the streets, this was a challenge to Brassai. In addition to his architectural images, he made a series of portraits of the people who lived the night, ambient that fascinated him, and left embodied in his work these characters night owls from the street and cafes (vagrants, prostitutes and lovers, opiate addicts, dancers, actors, etc.); some of these series were published in magazines of the time. When it broke out world war stopped doing portraits and, due to the restrictions, had to return to painting and devote himself to draw; at the end of the conflict he returned to photography.

In 1932, he discovered the graffiti on the walls of Paris, a theme that reflected in his photographs for a long time. His collaboration with the magazines of the time such as Minotaure in the 1930s (1933-1936) and Harper's Bazaar (1936-1965), related you the surreal atmosphere of writers, poets and artists; In addition to working with them, I shared that night life of Paris that had portrayed. That's how he met Picasso, Giacometti, Henri Miller , or Sartre, of which some portraits are preserved.

Images taken during this period are cliches of crystals, sculptures, female backs and works by Picasso, surrealist images that lost the viewer rather than lead it; in this regard, Brassaï wrote: "What draws in photography is the ability to penetrate phenomena, hide its forms".

At the end of the second world war he started a book carrying their images and an introduction by Henri Miller; This was published in 1948 under the title Historie of Marie. His collection of photographs was published three years later in the book, Camera in Paris.

Brassaï is not dedicated exclusively to photography, in the 1950s he returned to drawing and painting, began to make sculpture and was introduced into the world of cinema with the making of the film, Tant qu´il and aura des bêtes in 1955.

The death of Carmel Snow, the editor of Harper Baazar completo, so impressed him that he abandoned photography in the first half of the 1960's and was dedicated exclusively to the reprinting of his original works previously performed and the reissue of his books already published as Conversations avec Picasso (1946), which Henry Miller-Grandeur Nature; related to published in 1973 and The Secret Paris of the 30´s (1976).

The exhibition on his life and work have been numerous, it is worth mentioning those organized by the MOMA in New York, the single of 1968, and the collective more known, Photography: 1829-1937, which was published a catalogue with an introduction by Lawrence Durrell; as well as that it is considered the largest view exhibition in the United States, which was organized in the same city by the Marlborough Gallery.


Brassaï. Barcelona: Fundación Antoni Tàpies, 1993.

BRASSAI: Paris de nuit. I Paris: Arts et Métiers Graphique, 1933.

BRASSAI: Conversations avec Picasso. Paris: Gallimard publishing, 1964.

MILLER, Henry: Brassaï. Paris: Neuf, 1952.

MORAND, Paul: Brassaï. Paris: Flammarion, 1987.

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