In the early 1940s, the photographer Brassaï created a photo-chronicle of Picasso’s work. This book is a collection of Brassaï’s diary entries in which he paints a picture of the Parisian intellectual scene during the Second World War, with an unexpectedly candid revelation of Picasso’s personality.
Gyula Halász adopted the pseudonym Brassaï (meaning ‘from Brassó’ ) in 1924, when he settled in Paris – a city that had charmed him from his earliest childhood. Brassaï would find success as a journalist decades later, on the publication of his photographic album Paris de nuit, in which the life of the city’s underbelly was captured in the smoky light of its street-lamps. Being both highly artistic and simultaneously incredibly honest, these photos made a powerful impression on the 1930s public, and won Brassaï international recognition. Major glossy magazines began to show an interest in the photographer, and he would later go on to work with Minotaure, Verve, Life and Harper’s Bazaar.
Brassaï was surrounded by a whole constellation of prominent contemporaries: he was acquainted with Salvador Dalí, conversed with Man Ray, Henry Miller and André Breton, and was often seen in the company of Pablo Picasso and others: many of these being his close friends. A whole series of great artists influenced the forming of Brassaï’s creative persona. He made a name for himself as a talented portraitist, able to capture and skillfully communicate the psychological state of a model.
Over thirty years of acquaintance with one of the most famous artists in the history of world art – Pablo Picasso – lies as the basis of Brassaï’s book Conversations with Picasso. This book is a compilation of the photographer’s diary entries in which the image of the wartime Parisian intelligentsia stands before us alongside unknown aspects of the personality of Picasso himself. Unable to wander the city streets under the curfew imposed by the German occupiers, Brassaï dedicated the early ‘40s to photographing the works of the artist in his studio, creating a unique photo-chronicle of Picasso’s creative output. The artist had great respect for the work of Brassaï and waited impatiently each time a new set of pictures were in development. “And that’s the curious thing: I can appreciate my sculptures just from seeing them in your photographs… They give me the possibility to look at my own work from without…” he said to the photographer.
Brassaï possessed striking literary talent, something well demonstrated in his diary entries, in which he reproduced his conversations with Picasso on art and life with great care and affection. The emotional nature and strength of character of the great artist can be traced throughout the written dialogues, making their reading an incredibly vivid and entertaining process by which the reader is submerged in the universe of Picasso. He himself encapsulated Brassaï’s book in one pithy phrase: “Read this book if you want to understand me.”
This edition includes 53 reproductions of Brassaï’s photographs, a considerable part of which comprising shots of the sculptures in Picasso’s studio, as well as photo-portraits of the artist.
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