Les Livres Vivants

Paris has always been the theater of a revolution in the arts that challenges classical culture by depicting the whims of contemporary life and the thrill of  undamped experimentation. One of a great examples to the above is the illustrated book Brassaї : Paris by Night by Brassaï (contributed by Paul Morand). 

In 1924 the young man Gyula Halász (the real name of Brassaï) comes to Hungary, with the idea to make career as an artist. In fact he followed the course of Fine Arts in Budapest, and there learned to handle the pen and brush with authority. It’s therefore, as an artist, he moved to Montparnasse, famous painting of the moment. Correspondence with his parents, during the period from 1924 to 1940 are a valuable tool for tracking, step by step, the development and installation of Brassai in his new life in Paris. First journalist asks photographers Brassaï, Kertész particular, illustrate the stories that he makes. It explores the nocturnal Paris, Montparnasse quarter of the Halles, Canal Ourcq the Canal Saint-Martin, the place of Italy on Menilmontant neighborhood of Lilacs in Belleville … A life exciting and expensive that distanced from one discipline alone is photography.

Only Paris can be my field of battle - I am convinced. 

Paris, May 1924
I am the first to feel the need to send you as much detail as possible about my life in Paris.

Here is some photographs taken by Brassai in Paris -

Wandering Paris streets by nights in the early 1930’s, Brassai created arresting images of the city’s dramatic nocturnal landscapes. The back alleys, Metro stations, and bistros he photographed are by turn obsessively empty or crowded by prostitutes, thugs, laborers and lovers. Paris by night, first published in French as Paris de nuit in 1932, collected sixty of these images, which have since become photographic icons. For Brassai, 1932 and 1933 were the most important years in his life. They were the years in which he met Picasso, published Paris by Night - his first book - and collaborated with the Surrealists on the magazine Minotaure. But he distinguished himself from the Surrealist group by commenting, “The surreal effect of my pictures was nothing more than reality made fantastic through a particular vision. All I wanted to express was reality, for nothing is more surreal.” The strange, bewitching poetry of Paris by Night faithfully embodies this credo.

Interest in Brassai’s work has been ‘fueled up’ in recent years by major retrospective exhibitions of his work at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, and at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Complementing the catalogues of his work that accompanied these shows, and publishing to coincide with the exhibition Brassai: The Soul of Paris (Hayward Gallery, London, 22 February to 13 May 2001), this long-overdue reissue of Paris by Night in photogravure brings one of Brassai’s finest works back into print. The book is regarded as one of the best and exquisite illustrated books ever published.

The book Brassaї : Paris by Night is available here

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