1899 – 1984
Brassaï (Gyula Halasz) was a Hungarian photographer, sculpture, writer, and filmmaker who rose to international fame in France in the 20th century. In 1924 Brassaï moved to Paris, one of the numerous Hungarians who flourished in Paris between the World Wars. He would stay in Paris for the rest of his life, living among the gathering of young artists in the Montparnasse quarter. To learn the French language, he began by reading the works of Marcel Proust.
Brassaï’s love of the city, whose streets he often wandered late at night, led to photography. Tutored by his fellow Hungarian, André Kertész, he used photography to supplement his articles and to earn money. 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 Halasz went by the pseudonym “Brassaï” which means “Brasso”.
Brassaï captured the essence of the city in his photographs, published first in the 1933 book entitled, Paris du Nuit(Paris by Night). The response to the book was great resulting in him being called “the eye of Paris” in an essay by his friend Henry Miller. Brassaï photographed many of his artist friends, including Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Alberto Giacometti, and several prominent writers of his time, such as Jean Genet and Henri Marchaux.