Henri Cartier-Bresson - Photographs London Friday, May 19, 2023 | Phillips
  • Henri Cartier-Bresson travelled to China for LIFE magazine twice, in 1948 and 1958, each time deftly capturing with a humanist eye the country at a time of political and economic change. The work, on offer here, is an early print from his second trip in 1958 during which he completed an extensive four-month, 7,000-mile tour of the country at the beginning of the communist campaign the 'Great Leap Forward'. Based on the USSR's Five-year Plans, this economic and social agenda included agricultural collectivisation and rapid industrialisation for its largely rural, agrarian population.

    • Provenance

      Artcurial, Paris, 16 May 2007, lot 267

    • Literature

      H. Cartier-Bresson & B. B. Miller, China, New York: Bantam, 1964, p. 70
      P. Galassi, Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Modern Century, New York: MoMA, 2010, p. 195
      M. Frizot, Henri Cartier-Bresson: China 1948-1949, 1958, London: Thames & Hudson, 2019, pp. 228, 239

    • 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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Construction of the Beijing University swimming pool by students

June 1958
Gelatin silver print.
20.3 x 31.3 cm (7 7/8 x 12 3/8 in.)
Copyright credit reproduction limitation stamp on the verso.

Full Cataloguing

£4,000 - 6,000 ‡♠

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London Auction 19 May 2023