Cartier-Bresson: Beat, the World
“Rarely has the phrase “man of the world” been more aptly applied than to the protean photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, the subject of a handsome and large — though surely not anywhere near large enough — retrospective appearing at the Museum of Modern Art.
For much of his long career as a photojournalist, which began in the 1930s and officially ended three decades before his death in 2004, Cartier-Bresson was compulsively on the move. By plane, train, bus, car, bicycle, rickshaw, horse and on foot, he covered the better part of five continents in a tangled, crisscrossing itinerary of arcs and dashes.
In addition to being exhaustively mobile, he was widely connected. Good-looking, urbane, the rebellious child of French haute bourgeois privilege, he networked effortlessly, and had ready access to, and friendships with, the political and culture beau monde of his time. “
So wrote the New York Times critic, Holland Cotter, in previewing the Henri Cartier-Bresson retrospective that opened one week ago at the MOMA.
For those who cannot glimpse a photograph without further study or view all of life as though it were framed in a lens, there is no finer exhibit to be found anywhere right now than that within the rooms and corridors of the celebrated Museum of Modern Art in New York.
and steal up
when you are
There is so much that intrigues about this remarkable man who exceeded and surpassed the sum of his parts. I was nearly numbed into a kind of grave listlessness in trying to form even one intelligible post about his many gifts.
Where to start …?
How could I possibly encapsulate the whole of this magnificent man’s ninety-five years on this earth in a way that would inspire, educate, inform? All one could do was capture a scant representation of his photographic legacy and hope that you, as a reader, would want to learn more. Hence, my rather inept attempt to do that. Not in one post, but in many to run over the course of the next week. Perhaps one indelible image will captivate, or one profoundly wise comment will seduce you into the world that he inhabited.
One that was made up of the luminaries of his time. For example, Nehru, Matisse, Jacqueline Kennedy, T .S. Eliot, Truman Capote, George Balanchine, Coco Chanel, Richard Avedon, Carmel Snow and Marie-Louise Bousquet. Alberto Giacometti sat for portraits. And Bresson created classic likenesses the elderly Matisse in a dovecote of a studio; Capote with his amphibian stare; Chanel mummified in a suit of her own design.
Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908–2004) is one of the most original, accomplished, influential, and beloved figures in the history of photography. For more than twenty-five years, he was the keenest observer of the global theater of human affairs—and one of the great portraitists of the twentieth century.
The exhibit, Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Modern Century, is the first major American retrospective of his work in 30 years. It includes, of course, the masterpieces that have influenced generations of photographers. That would be more than enough reason to visit this smartly curated show. But the real treasures of the exhibit are the more than 60 photographs that were previously unknown to the public.
“Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Modern Century” runs from Sunday through June 28 at the Museum of Modern Art; moma.org. It travels to the Art Institute of Chicago (July 24 to Oct. 3); the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (Oct. 30 to Jan. 30); and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta (Feb. 19 to May 15).
Photos and Quotes by Henri Cartier-Bresson