BrassaÏ, Le Pont Du Carrousel, 1932
Le Pont du Carrousel, 1932. Gelatin silver print. 7 7/8 x 9 3/4 in. (20 x 24.8 cm). Signed, titled, numbered '53' in ink, annotated 'vintage' in pencil, 'Rue du Faub, St. Jacques' credit and copyright stamps on the verso.
THE FACE OF MODERNISM: A PRIVATE WEST COAST COLLECTION
PROVENANCE From the artist; to a Private Collection, Chicago Edwynn Houk Gallery, Chicago Private Collection, New York
LITERATURE Quasha, Paris in the Twenties and Thirties, p. 16 Thames and Hudson, Brassaï: No Ordinary Eyes, n.p. for variants
“I became a photographer in order to capture the beauty of streets and gardens in the rain and fog, and to capture Paris by night.”— Brassaï As the hub for Modernist thinkers and artists, Paris provided fertile ground for discovery and inspiration, prompting the Hungarian-born Brassaï to move to the city in 1924. While his professional origins prior to his move were in journalism, Brassaï turned his devotion entirely to photography once in Paris. In fact, by his own admission, it was his nocturnal exploration of the City of Lights that led him to take up photography as a primary source of income. Armed with twenty-four unexposed plates each night, Brassaï meandered the streets and frequented the less-than-glamorous bars, never using more than three exposures per image, a feat that attests to self-restraint as much as it does to an innately keen eye. The body of work he amassed was impressive and soon Brassaï was credited as the first photographer in Paris to master night photography, a niche that had been left largely ignored due to the limitations inherent to the medium. In Le Pont du Carrousel, 1932, the foggy night lends the street lights glowing halos, presenting an engulfing, charming effect. Indeed, Brassaï once stated that lighting “to the photographer [is akin to] what style is to the writer.” More so than an architectural study of the bridge, the image becomes a study of light and reflection, which together create an oculus at the center of the image, a subtle reminder of the camera lens that captured it so aptly. The role of the camera is likewise emphasized by the integration of reflection in Couple at the Bal des Quatre Saisons, Rue de Lappe, circa 1932 (lot 3). The image, in which a couple is seen leisurely sitting at a bar with their backs turned against a mirror, provides a dual perspective of the scene. By showing both sides—front and back— Brassaï cleverly alluded to the camera’s ability to provide, on both metaphoric and literal levels, an alternate view of reality. “My aim is to create something striking and fresh out of what is ordinary and everyday,” Brassaï once noted, thereby hinting at his wish to use his camera to expressively transform the seemingly mundane reality into an otherworldly view.