Friday, January 13, 2012


Brassaï (pseudonym of Gyula Halász) (1899 – 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 1940-1984 has provided scholars with material for understanding his later life and career.
Gyula Halász was born in Brassó, Transsylvania, Kingdom of Hungary (since 1920 Braşov, Romania), to an Armenian mother and a Hungarian father. He grew up speaking Hungarian. 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 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 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).
Rickie Lee Jones' album Pirates - a Brassaï photograph
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.

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