HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON (1908-2004)

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HENRI MATISSE AT HIS HOME, 'LE REVE', VENCE, FRANCE, 1944 by HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON (1908-2004) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

HENRI MATISSE AT HIS HOME, 'LE REVE', VENCE, FRANCE, 1944

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FRENCH ART DEALER PIERRE COLLE, PARIS, 1932 by HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON (1908-2004) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

FRENCH ART DEALER PIERRE COLLE, PARIS, 1932

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JOINVILLE-LE-PONT, 1938 by HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON (1908-2004) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

JOINVILLE-LE-PONT, 1938

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BARRIO CHINO, BARCELONA, 1933 by HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON (1908-2004) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

BARRIO CHINO, BARCELONA, 1933

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CLAUDE LEVI-STRAUSS, 1963 by HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON (1908-2004) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

CLAUDE LEVI-STRAUSS, 1963

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FRANCIS BACON, LONDON, 1971 by HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON (1908-2004) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

FRANCIS BACON, LONDON, 1971

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IGOR STRAVINSKY, 1967 by HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON (1908-2004) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

IGOR STRAVINSKY, 1967

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A YOUNG BELGIAN WOMAN IS DENOUNCED AS A GESTAPO INFORMER, DESSAU, APRIL 1945 by HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON (1908-2004) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

A YOUNG BELGIAN WOMAN IS DENOUNCED AS A GESTAPO INFORMER, DESSAU, APRIL 1945

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COSMONAUTS, LENINGRAD AVENUE, MOSCOW, 1972 by HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON (1908-2004) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

COSMONAUTS, LENINGRAD AVENUE, MOSCOW, 1972

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VALENCIA, 1933 by HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON (1908-2004) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

VALENCIA, 1933

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BRIE, FRANCE, 1968 by HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON (1908-2004) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

BRIE, FRANCE, 1968

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PARIS, 1932 by HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON (1908-2004) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

PARIS, 1932

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SATURDAY IN THE SYNAGOGUE, LENINGRAD, 1973 by HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON (1908-2004) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

SATURDAY IN THE SYNAGOGUE, LENINGRAD, 1973

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CORDOBA, 1933 by HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON (1908-2004) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

CORDOBA, 1933

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LA DEFENSE, PARIS, FRANCE, 1972 by HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON (1908-2004) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

LA DEFENSE, PARIS, FRANCE, 1972

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Henri Cartier-Bresson, arguably the most significant photographer of the twentieth-century, was one of the co-founders of Magnum Photos in 1947 and champion of the "decisive moment". He brought a new aesthetic and practice to photography, initiated modern photojournalism, and influenced countless followers.

Henri Cartier-Bresson was born on 22 August 1908, the eldest of five children born to a wealthy textile manufacturer and his wife, the scion of a Normandy landowning family. Brought up in a bourgeois suburb of Paris, Cartier-Bresson was educated at the École Fénelon, and then at the Lhote Academy, a studio run by the surrealist painter, André Lhote.

However, an underlying dissatisfaction with painting, and a year at Cambridge University from 1928-29, disrupted Cartier-Bresson's development as a painter, and he found himself increasingly drawn to the more immediate (and fashionable) medium of photography as a way of expressing his developing world-view.

As he was independently wealthy, living off an allowance from his father, Cartier-Bresson did not need to earn money. This meant that he was free to experiment and, after buying a Leica 35mm camera in 1932, he embarked on various travels to explore the potential of photography. Between 1932 and 1935 he visited Italy, Spain, Morocco, and Mexico, gradually developing his love, and genius, for the medium.

The result was that Cartier-Bresson became an icon of street photography, ushering in a new era of light, fluid and elegant composition and coining the term the decisive moment. A term which later became the title for a compendium of Cartier-Bresson's life and work, and had a cover designed by Henri Matisse.

After the Second World War, in which Cartier-Bresson was captured by the Germans (before escaping, and helping the resistance), he was honoured with an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1947. In the same year, he joined forces with fellow photographers Robert Capa, George Rodger and David Seymour to found a new photographic agency, Magnum Photos, to be based in Paris and New York.

Henri Cartier-Bresson's career post 1945 was dominated by his work for Magnum, which in turn was often commissioned by Life magazine. His remit for the agency was to cover India and China, but in fact he travelled widely for the next twenty years, also taking assignments in the USA, France, Italy, former Yugoslavia, Greece, Egypt, Iran, Pakistan, Indonesia and many other places. He swiftly became one of the world's most sought-after photojournalists.

Cartier-Bresson covered many of the great events and issues of the period. He also published a series of highly influential books, including Images à La Sauvette in 1952, followed by The Europeans in 1955. He subsequently produced over thirty further publications, the last being Landscape Townscape published in 2001. In 1968 he retired from professional photography, returning to his first love, drawing, for the remainder of his life.

Henri Cartier-Bresson died at his home in Provence on 3 August 2004, a few weeks short of his 96th birthday.

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