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Sale from the Estate of Photographer Brassai
Vicevært, 1946 Photo: Brassaï. ©Estate Brassaï - R.M.N.



PARIS, FRANCE.- An exceptional sale devoted to works from the estate of the celebrated photographer Brassaï will be held by France's leading independent auction house Millon & Associés at Drouot's prestigious auction venue, Drouot-Montaigne, 15 avenue Montaigne, Paris, on Tuesday 2 and Wednesday 3 October 2006. This will be the most important ensemble of Brassaï works ever exhibited and provides a unique opportunity to acquire photographs, maquettes, drawings, sculpture and even a tapestry with such a distinguished provenance by this talented and most versatile of artists.

The 753 works to be offered come from the estate of the photographer's widow Gilberte, who died in 2005, having inherited Brassaï's estate in its entirety in 1984. The works include Brassaï's most legendary photographs in both vintage prints and the larger prints made specially for the major exhibitions devoted to Brassaï between 1955 and 1960 as well as sculptures and drawings revealing a less familiar facet of his artistic talent. All the lots can be seen at the four-day viewing at Drouot-Montaigne from 28 September to 1 October.

The 550 photographs to be offered span Brassaï's entire career. He was considered one of the most important photographers of the 20th century alongside Man Ray, Kertèsz and Cartier-Bresson. The man whom Henry Miller dubbed 'the Eye of Paris' made the nightlife of Paris known throughout the world.

These outstanding photographs have seldom appeared on the market and, with their impeccable provenance, are sure to appeal to collectors from around the globe. They will be grouped together by theme: the Night series will undoubtedly be the most eagerly sought after with the photographs of Paris de Nuit, originally published in 1932; The 1930s - bars, musettes, lowlife, and brothels; and Les Bals - Magic City, homosexuals, Les Quat z'Art and les Folies Bergères. Never have so many of Brassaï's most famous images been on public display together, for example from one publication alone - Le Paris secret des années 30 (The Secret Paris of the 30s), published in 1976 - 80% of the images are included in the auction.

The Day photographs evoke not just Paris but also the South of France, nudes, sport, the circus, dance, animals and plants. Another section of the auction is devoted to the series of photographs of artists in their studios, including Picasso, Miró and Maillol to name but a few, and writers including Henry Miller are also certain to arouse much interest.

Individual highlights include Le Couple d'Amoureux au Bal des Quatre Saisons, Rue de Lappe (1932), an exhibition print 20 x 15in (50 x 37cm), estimate €15,000-20,000; Pavés (1931) from the cover of Paris by Night, 7 x 9½in (18 x 24cm), estimate €30,000-40,000; and Le Baiser (1937), 15 x 19in (38 x 48.5cm), estimate €10,000-15,000.

190 drawings will be offered, including an extraordinary Brassaï Self-Portrait in Indian ink, white gouache and blue crayon, signed B in pencil, 10 x 8¼ in (25 x 21 cm), estimate €4000-6000; and Seated Nude (Left Profile) With her Elbow on Her Right Knee plus Hand Study, ink 12 x 15 in (31.5 x 38 cm), signed Brassaï and dated 10 June 1944 (estimate €2000-3000).

An exceptional ensemble of 12 sculptures with sensuous curves, never seen at auction before, will also generate interest. Among them are two 1971 works in white Carrara marble: Astrée Blanche II, height 2 ft 2 in (66 cm), estimate €10,000-15,000 and Galatea, height 20 in (50 cm), estimate €10,000-15,000. Femme Cygne (1970), in gilt bronze, height 18 in (45 cm), signed B and numbered 2/6, is expected to fetch €6000-7000.

Brassaï was born Gyula Halàsz in Transylvania in 1899 and adopted his famous pseudonym, taken from the town of Brasso where he was born, in 1932. After studying in Budapest he moved to Berlin in 1921/2, frequenting an artistic circle that included Kandinsky and Kokoschka. He settled in Paris in 1924, later acquiring French nationality. After meeting the photographer Atget who was to become a major influence, Brassaï produced his first photographs in 1929, conveying the spellbinding atmosphere of Paris and its maze of little streets, developing his glass plates himself and making his own prints - something he continued to do for the rest of his life.

In 1932 his friend Henry Miller wrote his first text on Brassaï, published in 1938 with the title Brassaï: L'Oeil de Paris (The Eye of Paris). Their night-time wanderings through little-known areas of Paris, well off the beaten tourist path, gave rise to Paris de nuit (Paris by Night), published in 1932. The English edition earned Brassaï the P.H. Emerson Award which was presented by the scientist and photographer Peter Henry Emerson himself in London in 1934.

In 1937 the Francophile editor of Harper's Bazaar, Carmel Snow, and its artistic director Alexey Brodovitch, asked Brassaï to work for the magazine. He did so for the next 25 years, producing numerous portraits of such leading artists in their studios as Aristide Maillol, Pierre Bonnard, Georges Braque, Bernard Buffet, Pierre Soulages and many others. He also made a series of portraits of Picasso for LIFE magazine in 1939.

In 1966, to add to the numerous awards he had received from around the world, Brassaï was named an Honorary Member of the American Society of Magazine Photographers for his "important contribution to photography".

Brassaï was friends with some of the greatest artists of the 20th century from Picasso to Dali and Matisse to Giacometti via the Surrealists and also with leading poets such as Jacques Prévert, Raymond Queneau and psychoanalysts including Jacques Lacan.

Brassaï's work has been shown in the world's leading museums, both during his lifetime and since he died. In 1956 the Graffiti exhibition devoted to him at the New York MoMA, organised by Edward Steichen, made a huge impact as did a one-man show in 1968 organised by John Szarkovski, with a catalogue preface by his friend Lawrence Durrell. Brassaï also published various books, translated into several languages, including Conversations avec Picasso in 1964, illustrated with 50 photographs, and Le Paris secret des années 30 (The Secret Paris of the 30s), published simultaneously in 1976 in France, the United States, Britain, Germany and Japan.

In 1979, to mark his 80th birthday, Brassaï was fêted with retrospectives in New York and London. In 2000 a major retrospective was held at the Pompidou Center in Paris and other important retrospectives have been staged in Houston and Los Angeles.










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