Henri Cartier-Bresson - Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Eye of the Century New York Tuesday, December 12, 2017 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist

  • Literature

    Thames & Hudson, Henri Cartier-Bresson: Photoportraits, p. 250

  • Catalogue Essay

    Henri Cartier-Bresson photographed minister and activist Malcolm X in Harlem in March 1961. While fellow Magnum photographer Eve Arnold often captured the great orator giving public speeches, here, Cartier-Bresson shows Malcolm X seated at a diner beside a portrait of Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the Nation of Islam. While common to the contemporary viewer, the 'no smoking' sign on the wall would have been seen as a marker of the Nation of Islam's strict moral code that forbids smoking.

    Henri Cartier-Bresson photographed the United States more extensively than almost any other nation. Turning his lens to the United States’ vast landscape and diverse population, Cartier-Bresson drove cross-country in 1947 and again in 1960. At the same time as the 1947 road-trip, Cartier-Bresson photographed portraits of artists and writers for Harper’s Bazaar, including William Faulkner (lot 109). Additionally, during this trip many of the exceptional, but little-seen photographs of places like Natchez, Mississippi (lot 114), San Antonio, Texas (lot 110), and Taos, New Mexico (lot 115) were taken. Cartier-Bresson was also a frequent visitor to New York, and the lots that follow, taken in neighborhoods from the Lower East Side, to Harlem, and Brooklyn, show an intimate familiarity with the city.

    American culture came to the forefront in the mid-century, and interest in how Americans lived and worked brought Cartier-Bresson’s photographs of the United States to the pages of Paris Match, Réalités, Jours de France, Queen, and other international magazines.

  • Artist Biography

    Henri Cartier-Bresson

    French • 1908 - 2004

    Candidly capturing fleeting moments of beauty among the seemingly ordinary happenings of daily life, Henri Cartier-Bresson's work is intuitive and observational. Initially influenced by the Surrealists' "aimless walks of discovery," he began shooting on his Leica while traveling through Europe in 1932, revealing the hidden drama and idiosyncrasy in the everyday and mundane. The hand-held Leica allowed him ease of movement while attracting minimal notice as he wandered in foreign lands, taking images that matched his bohemian spontaneity with his painterly sense of composition.

    Cartier-Bresson did not plan or arrange his photographs. His practice was to release the shutter at the moment his instincts told him the scene before him was in perfect balance. This he later famously titled "the decisive moment" — a concept that would influence photographers throughout the twentieth century. 

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Malcolm X, Harlem

Gelatin silver print, printed later.
14 1/8 x 9 1/2 in. (35.9 x 24.1 cm)
Signed in ink and copyright credit blindstamp in the margin.

$7,000 - 9,000 

Sold for $8,750

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Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Eye of the Century

New York Auction 12 December 2017