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: The Complete Cartier-Bresson


Minneapolis Institute of Arts



Institution Minneapolis Institute of Arts
While Henri Cartier-Bresson's photographs are universally recognized and respected, the artist's paintings, drawings, and films are similarly powerful. Experience this complete—and never before seen in an American museum—presentation of his work March 3-May 12, 1996 in "Henri Cartier-Bresson: Pen, Brush, and Cameras" at The Minneapolis Institute of Arts."To photograph is to hold one's breath, when all faculties converge to capture fleeting reality. It's at that precise moment that mastering an image becomes a great physical and intellectual joy."
—Henri Cartier-BressonTo describe French artist Henri Cartier-Bresson as the world's most respected photographer and photojournalist of the 20th century is accurate, but not complete. Cartier-Bresson is also a remarkably gifted painter, draftsman, and filmmaker.The many dimensions of Cartier-Bresson's talent are put together in the Institute's "Henri Cartier-Bresson: Pen, Brush, and Cameras." Cartier-Bresson himself selected more than 100 drawings and photographs for this exhibition, and eight rarely exhibited oil paintings, several watercolors and seven films by or about the artist also will be on view in the museum's Dayton Hudson gallery.The Photographs of Cartier-Bresson
Thirty nine oversize prints highlight the photography section of the exhibition. Selected by the artist and produced under his direct supervision, these images were made from 1932 to 1968, and the group "includes some of Cartier-Bresson's most unforgettable photographs," says Ted Hartwell, the Institute's Curator of Photography. "These are images that have defined our perception not only of this great photographer, but of all great 20th-century photography. Included will be such classic works as 'Behind the Gare St.-Lazare, Paris,' 1932, 'Henri Matisse, Venice,' 1944, and 'Brie, France,' 1968."Accompanying these oversize prints are text panels written by a list of people that reads like a Who's Who in the art and literary worlds. "We have both a highly individualized collage of inspired response, demonstrating the persuasiveness and universality of Cartier-Bresson's genius, and a finely distilled selection of many of his most powerful and poetic images," Hartwell says.Of "Canteen for Workers Constructing the Hotel Metropol, Moscow," 1954, Arthur Miller writes, "Even in a scene where people are awkwardly trying to experience some pleasure after long days of hard, dusty labor, nature seems to arrange them for Cartier-Bresson's lens so that their volumes very nearly balance and their arrangement and relationships sustain the energy of something set apart, a separated moment in life."The Many Sides of Cartier-Bresson
Although he is best known for his photographs, the 87-year-old Cartier-Bresson began his career as a painting and drawing student in 1923, and it is drawing that has captured most of his creative interest since 1973. (In fact, he has made few photographs since then.) Using a pencil or ink, Cartier-Bresson draws landscapes, cityscapes, portraits, and models. "If my photos have any sense," says Cartier-Bresson, "it is because they are 'instant drawings.'" Whereas he sees photography as a "spontaneous impulse," he defines drawing as a "form of meditation." Most of the exhibition's 68 graphic works, all from Cartier-Bresson's private collection, have never before been shown in the United States. The paintings and films, though a small segment of the total exhibition, emphasize Cartier-Bresson's incredible artistic range and help define the historic and social context of his work.The artist, who learned to use a 35mm Leica camera in three days by studying the manual, turned his attention to filmmaking in 1935. He assisted French film director Jean Renoir on some of his most important pre-World War II films, including "A Day in the Country," and "Rules of the Game." In 1937, he made the first of his own films, "Victory of Life," which was a documentary about hospitals in Republican Spain during the Spanish Civil War.Experiencing the work of Cartier-Bresson, who still lives and works in France, is vitally important as a sampling of the many important events in the history of the 20th century. Held in German prisoner of war camps, he later escaped and went to Paris to become involved with photojournalism for the French Resistance movement. In 1947, he helped found Magnum Photos, the first, powerful photo-reporters' cooperative. His Magnum photos are some of the most memorable and respected images of post-war photojournalism. He went on to become one of the first photographers admitted to the Soviet Union after WWII and also photographed China during the fall of Chiang Kai-shek and formation of the People's Republic.Cartier-Bresson's extraordinary life and work experiences are portrayed in this special exhibition, which premieres at The Minneapolis Institute of Arts. This amazing body of work allows Henri Cartier-Bresson to bring us a poignant, insightful look at our world through his photographs, drawings, paintings, and films.Arts editor Amy Orchard compiled this article from pieces written by Evan M. Maurer, Ted Hartwell and Muriel Morrisette.This exhibition was organized by The Minneapolis Institute of Arts and made possible by Inter-Regional Financial Group, Inc., on behalf of Dain Bosworth Incorporated.Related ImagesOn the Banks of the Marne, France, 1938C.E. in a Violet Blouse, 1984
Lent by the artistChurch of Saint-Roch, Paris, 1976
Lent by the artistCopy of Dürer, 1985
Lent by the artistBrie, France, June 1968Brussels, 1932Lyons, 1943
Lent by the artist
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Source: Amy Orchard, Evan M. Maurer, Ted Hartwell, Muriel Morrisette, "The Complete Cartier-Bresson," <i>Arts</i> 9, no. 3 (March 1996): 9-11.
Rights: ©MIA
Added to Site: March 10, 2009