Master of the Instant
Cartier-Bresson Photographs from the National Gallery of Canada
Born in 1908 in Chanteloupen-Brie, Henri Cartier-Bresson stood to inherit his family’s prosperous textile manufacturing but instead took up drawing and painting. He travelled to Africa in 1931, where he worked and stalked game before falling ill with malaria. It was when he returned to France to convalesce in Marseilles that he began taking candid photographs with his new lightweight, hand-held Leica. Throughout the next decade and beyond, Cartier-Bresson travelled to Spain and Italy, to Mexico and the United States, photographing ordinary and extraordinary people, capturing their spontaneous gestures and revealing the subtleties of the human condition.
This exhibition will show twenty-five of Cartier-Bresson's gelatin silver prints from the National Gallery's permanent collection, all dating from the 1930s and 1940s. Some of his most memorable images are included in the show: Behind Gare St. Lazare (1932), with its early-morning puddle-jumper, Valencia, Spain (1933), showing a boy rubbing against a peeling wall; Jean-Paul Sartre, Paris (1945), in which the philosopher's pipe and furrowed brow reveal his weighty intellect; and At the Coronation Parade of George VI, Trafalgar Square, London (1938), in which the artists focuses his lens on the droll spectators.
The legendary French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson is widely regarded as the founding father of photojournalism and one of the most important figures in early twentieth-century art. With his famous Leica, Cartier-Bresson was able to capture life in motion with visual wit and a keen eye for geometrical composition. In coining the term "the decisive moment," he summed up his approach to photography as the interaction of mind, body and instinct.