Individual Artists

Temperaments: Memoirs of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Other by Dan Hofstadter

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By Dan Hofstadter

In those 5 profiles, 4 of which initially seemed in the New Yorker, the writer inspires the lifestyles and paintings of 7 proficient artists. between these offered, frequently via energetic conversations, are Jean Hélion, Mark Rothko, R.B. Kitaj, and Dennis Creffield. leader between these portrayed in spite of the fact that is Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004), the good French photographer and photojournalist who, famed for dodging touch with the clicking, is the following sketched in infrequent and fond aspect. Of these kind of artists, in basic terms nonetheless dwell: what emerges from this booklet is an image, frequently extraordinary, usually hilarious, of a bygone bohemian world. 

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He was in India just after the close of the Raj, in China at the triumph of the Communist Party, and in Indonesia for the first months of independence from the Dutch. During the next three decades, he would often return to the East, and he would also photograph both the Soviet Union and the United States. In 1952, his friend Tériade, the Greek-born publisher who had earlier created the art review Verve, brought out the first comprehensive book of Cartier-Bresson photographs. Called Images à la Sauvette—the idiom is suggestive of speed and furtiveness—it appeared in the United States as The Decisive Moment, and this title, which soon became a catchphrase, did much to confuse the American public about Cartier-Bresson’s intentions.

All traces of social context are caught with the utmost deftness—the man reads with a magnifying glass, the girl wears a dirty apron with a comb at the ready in its pocket—so one’s attention never wanders from the gorgeous, Pietà-like pose of the woman and the girl. The shadow of the umbrella adds a touchingly protective, and characteristically surreal, note to the picture. By the end of 1934, Cartier-Bresson had shown his work publicly in New York and Madrid as well as in Mexico City, but the following year he largely abandoned photography in order to study moviemaking.

Well, he seemed to be dozing off; but when somebody said something that caught his interest, he would suddenly perk up and offer an impromptu mot. “Poverty has this advantage, that it teaches you economy in art,” he said once—it was a true Norman remark. ” His remarks about painting were shrewd and liberal-minded. I liked to picture him in earlier days, in his former studio in the avenue de l’Observatoire, with its stagy portico and loggia, its deck chairs and coal-burning stove, its walls covered with the umbrellas and gloves and hats that he’d found at flea markets.

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