Artist Spotlight: Master Photographer Gyula Halász Also Known As ‘Brassai’

3 May
2010

Gyula Halász was born in Brassó (Braşov), in south-east Transylvania, Austria-Hungary (today in Romania), to a Hungarian father and an Armenian mother. At age three, his family moved to live in Paris, France for a year, while his father, a Professor of Literature, taught at the Sorbonne.

As a young man, Gyula Halász studied painting and sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest, before joining a cavalry regiment of the Austro-Hungarian army, where he served until the end of the First World War. In 1920 Halász went to Berlin, where he worked as a journalist and studied at the Berlin-Charlottenburg Academy of Fine Arts.

Backstage at the Folies-Bergere 1933

Gyula Halász’s job and his love of the city, whose streets he often wandered late at night, led to photography. He later wrote that photography allowed him to seize the Paris night and the beauty of the streets and gardens, in rain and mist. Using the name of his birthplace, Gyula Halász went by the pseudonym “Brassaï,” which means “from Brasso.” As Brassaï, he captured the essence of the city in his photographs, publishing his first book of photographs in 1933 titled “Paris de nuit” (“Paris by Night”). His efforts met with great success, resulting in his being called “the eye of Paris” in an essay by his friend Henry Miller.

As well as a photographer, Brassaí was the author of seventeen books and numerous articles, including the 1948 novel Histoire de Marie, which was published with an introduction by Henry Miller. His Letters to My Parents and Conversations with Picasso, have been translated into English and published by the University of Chicago Press.

Considered by all as one of the great photographers of the 20th century, Gyula Halász died on July 8, 1984 in Èze, Alpes-Maritimes, in the south of France and was interred in the Cimetière du Montparnasse in Paris.

In 2000, an exhibition of some 450 works by Brassaï was organized with the help of his widow, Gilberte at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris.

Here is some of his work…

"Bijou" of the Montmartre cabarets From "Paris by Night" 1933

Lovers in a Bistro 1932-33

Arc de Triomphe From "Paris by Night" 1933

Open Gutter From "Paris by Night" 1933

"House of illusion" From "Paris by Night" 1933

Notre Dame from the Ile Saint-Louis From "Paris by Night" 1933

View more works here.

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