‘Decisive Moments’— Henri Cartier-Bresson

Henri Cartier-Bresson’s ‘Decisive Moments’ to Show at Queensland Art Gallery

Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004), the influential French photographer who redefined both photojournalism and his craft as an art form, will be celebrated in a major exhibition at the Queensland Art Gallery from August 27 to November 27, 2011.

‘The photographs included in this exhibition were selected by Henri Cartier-Bresson with long-time friend and publisher Robert Delpire in the year prior to his death,’ Mr Ellwood said.

‘Cartier-Bresson oversaw the printing of each photograph and was closely involved in the display and publication of his work throughout his career. Debuting at the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris 2003, this exhibition was the last that the artist was involved with.

‘Cartier-Bresson’s photography is known for capturing “the decisive moment”, an illustration of action, emotion and an entire story through the single frame of the camera lens. This moment is captured in such iconic images as a man seemingly walking on water at the Gare Saint Lazare in Paris, or the confrontation by a prisoner of war of the Gestapo informant who betrayed her.’

Mr Ellwood said visitors would have an opportunity to see these and 250 more of Cartier-Bresson’s photographs, including defining records of modern history and intimate portraits of daily life from around the world.

‘Cartier-Bresson documented some of the most significant historical events of the twentieth century, including the fall of the Kuomintang in China, the impact of Gandhi’s assassination in India and life behind the Iron Curtain in the Soviet Union during the 1950s,’ he said.

‘His celebrated assignments for Life magazine not only reshaped photojournalism but gave a rare insight into world events. ‘The exhibition spans the artist’s trailblazing global travels across America (1939-67), Bali (1949-50), China and Japan (1948 and 1965), India (1947 and 1966), Mexico (1934 and 1964) and the USSR (1954 and1973), as well as a selection of portraits of his contemporaries including Jean-Paul Sartre, Alberto Giacometti, Colette, Pierre Bonnard, Henri Matisse and many others.

‘Cartier-Bresson described photography as “aligning the head, the eye and the heart along the same line of sight”. This exhibition puts into perspective his remarkable career behind the camera,’ he said.

Visitors will be able to explore Cartier-Bresson’s work and life in depth in a resource lounge located directly outside the exhibition space. The lounge will feature biographical information, photographs and film marking key moments throughout his career, as well as a large selection of photography publications.

The exhibition opening weekend will feature an extensive program of talks and tours providing the chance to learn more about the man who revolutionised modern photography and captured some of the most iconic images of the twentieth century. An ongoing series of programs and events will include monthly focus sessions examining CartierBresson’s work through the eyes of photojournalists, fashion and travel photographers and bloggers.

The exhibition is accompanied by a definitive retrospective catalogue containing over 600 colour and duo-tone illustrations, including previously unpublished photographs and a selection of drawings, painting and film stills documenting the Cartier-Bresson’s lifetime achievements. It will be available from the Gallery Store for $59.95.

For more information visit http://www.qag.qld.gov.au/cartierbresson

Entry fees apply. Tickets will be available from the Gallery during the exhibition:

Adult $12 Concession $10 Members $9 (Discount available to Gallery and Foundation Members) Secondary students $6 Children (12 years & under): FREE Family (1–2 Adults & Children aged 13–17): $30 Season adult $36 Season concession $30 Season member $27 (Discount available to Gallery and Foundation Members)

     Tickets are available from the exhibition entry. Ticket prices:

     Adult $12 Concession $10 Members $9 (Discount available to Gallery and Foundation Members) Secondary students $6 Children (12 years & under): FREE Family (1–2 Adults & Children aged 13–17): $30 Season adult $36 Season concession $30 Season member $27 (Discount available to Gallery and Foundation Members)


             1927-28 Studies painting under André Lhote.

1931     Spends one year in the Ivory Coast, where he takes his first photographs. Back in Europe, concentrates on photography. Travels in Europe with André Pieyre de Mandiargues and Leonor Fini.

1933     Exhibits at the Julien Levy Gallery, New York. His photographs are subsequently shown at the Ateneo club in Madrid. Also published by Charles Peignot in Arts et Métiers Graphiques.

1934     Spends a year in Mexico with an ethnographic expedition. Exhibits with Manuel Alvarez Bravo at the Palacio de Bellas Artes de Mexico in 1935.

1935     Spends some time in the USA, where he takes his first photographs of New York and first experiments with film, with Paul Strand. Exhibition at the Julien Levy Gallery with Walter. Evans and Manuel Alvarez Bravo “Documentary and antigraphic photographs”.

1936     Works as second assistant to Jean Renoir on Une partie de campagne (A Day in the Country).

1937     Directs a documentary on the hospitals of Republican Spain, Victoire de la vie (Return to Life), and a documentary for the Secours Populaire, L’Espagne vivra. Louis Aragon provides him with an introduction to Regards, where he publishes a number of photographic reportages, including coverage of the coronation of George VI.

1939     Joins Jacques Becker and André Zvoboda as an assistant on Jean Renoir’s La Règle du jeu (The Rules of the Game).

1940     Taken prisoner by the Germans, escapes at his third attempt in February 1943.

1943     Works for MNPGD, a secret organization set up to help prisoners and escapees.

1944-45 For Editions Braun, takes a series of photographic portraits of writers and artists (Matisse, Picasso, Braque, Bonnard, Claudel, Rouault etc.). Working as part of a team, photographs the Liberation of Paris. Directs Le Retour (The Return), a documentary on the repatriation of prisoners of war and detainees.

1946     Spends over a year in the USA working on the so-called “posthumous” exhibition of his work, proposed by the Museum of Modern Art in New York at a time when he was believed to have died in the war. Travels in the USA with Truman Capote and after with John Malcolm Brinnin.

1947     With Robert Capa, David Seymour (Chim), William Vandivert and George Rodger founds the cooperative agency Magnum Photos.

1948-50 In the Far East for three years, in India for the death of Gandhi, China for the last six months of the Kuomintang and the first sixth months of the People’s Republic, and in Indonesia for independence.

1952-53 Back in Europe.

1952     His first book, Images à la sauvette, cover by Matisse, is published by Tériade.

1954     Publication by Robert Delpire of his book on Balinese theatre, Les danses à Bali, with a text by Antonin Artaud, marking the beginning of a long collaboration with Delpire. He is the first photographer to be allowed into the USSR during this period.

1955     First exhibition in France at the Pavillon de Marsan in the Louvre, which subsequently travels all over the world. Tériade publishes Les Européens, cover by Miró.

1958-59   Returns to China for three months for the tenth anniversary of the People’s Republic of China.

1963      Returns to Mexico for the first time in thirty years, staying for four months. Life Magazine sends him to Cuba.

1965     Spends several months travelling in Japan.

1966     Returns to India. Terminates his active working relationship with Magnum Photos, although the agency distribution retains his archives. As before, his pictures are printed by Pictorial Service.

1967     Commissioned by IBM to create “Man and Machine”.

1969-70 Spends a year travelling around France for Reader’s Digest and publishes a book Vive la France, to accompany the exhibition “En France” staged at the Grand Palais in 1970. In the USA directs two documentaries for CBS News.

1972     Returns to the USSR.

1975     First exhibition of drawings at the Carlton Gallery, New York. Concentrates on drawing but continues to practise portrait and landscape photography.

1980     Returns to India. 1981 Awarded the Grand Prix National de la Photographie by the Minister of Culture in Paris. 1986 In Palermo, presented with the Novecento prize by Jorge Luis Borges’ widow. 1987 The Museum of Modern Art, New York, stages the exhibition of photographs “Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Early Work”.

1988     The Centre National de la Photographie celebrates his eightieth birthday.

2000     With his wife Martine Franck and his daughter Mélanie, makes plans to set up the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, to provide a permanent home for his collected works as well as an exhibition space open to other artists.

2002     The Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson wins state-approved status.

2003     Inauguration of the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson. Retrospective exhibition “HCB de qui s’agit-il?” at the Bibliothèque nationale de France as well as at the Caixa Forum in Barcelona.

2004     The retrospective exhibition is shown at the Martin Gropius Bau, in Berlin. Henri Cartier-Bresson passes away peacefully in Monjustin, Provence, August 3 2004.

2005-11 The Retrospective exhibition is shown at the Dean Gallery, in Edinburgh, Scotland and in the FOAM, in Amsterdam, FORMA in Milano, Museum für Gestaltung Zürich. The “Scrap Book” exhibition is shown at the Fondation HCB with publication of a book (Steidl) and then presented in the ICP in New York.


‘Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Man, The Image and The World’ is divided into sections highlighting the artist’s trail-blazing mid-20th century global travels and his intimate portraits of subjects both well-known and anonymous.

America (1939-67) Cartier-Bresson captured the human element of America, focusing on the richness of personal encounters and experiences. From the Mid-West to the ghettos of South Carolina, his subjects give a vision of America unlike any other.

Bali (1949–50) The photographs from his time in Bali capture the exquisite grace and refinement of Balinese theatre. He captured the dramatic intensity of these profound performances.

China and Japan (1948 and 1965) The photographic work captured by Cartier-Bresson over his journey through China makes a diary of inestimable historical importance. He captured the days leading into Mao Zedong’s invasion of Peking and the departure of Chiang Kai-Chek’s troops.

India (1947 and 1966) Cartier-Bresson’s pictures of India bear witness to his fascination with the Indian people, culture and philosophy. During his first visit in late 1947-48, he photographed Gandhi minutes before his death and following this captured the fervour that his funeral generated amongst the population.

Mexico (1934 and 1964) Cartier-Bresson visited Mexico twice, in 1934 and 1964. The images remained so alike that time seemed to have stood still over the 30 years.

USSR (1954 and 1973) Henri Cartier-Bresson visited the USSR for the first time in 1954. Travelling with an interpreter, he focused his eye on people and every aspect of their daily lives. He returned nineteen years later in an attempt to capture and compare the differences in the country over time.

Portraits (1935-86) ‘If, in making a portrait, we are trying to capture the inner silence of a consenting victim, it is very difficult to slip a camera between their clothes and their skin.’

Henri Cartier-Bresson made many portraits during his long career. These were often of unknown subjects, but also of celebrities. In each portrait – of Jean-Paul Sartre, Alberto Giacometti, Colette, Pierre Bonnard, Henri Matisse and many others – the photographer has captured a particular expression, an attitude briefly glimpsed during a tête-a-tête or an encounter that subtly suggests his subject’s personality.


A series of public programs will look through the lens of Henri Cartier-Bresson for insight into how this French photographer captured some of the most significant events of the twentieth century.


11.30am: Discussion tour: Looking through the lens

This guided discussion tour featuring special guests will explore Cartier-Bresson’s career, work and inspirations.

1.30pm: Henri Cartier-Bresson in focus

Andréa Holzherr, Exhibition Manager and Cultural Developer at Magnum Photos, investigates the ongoing legacy of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s work and his ability to capture the ‘decisive moment’ in his photographs of people, places and events.

2.30pm: Curator’s perspective tour

Exhibition curator Rosie Hays, Associate Curator, Australian Cinémathèque, offers her perspective on the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson.


Curator’s perspective tours 11.30am, Tuesday September 27, 2.30pm Thursday October 27 Exhibition curator Rosie Hays, Associate Curator, Australian Cinémathèque, offers her perspective on the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson.

Photography in focus 2.30pm, Sunday September 11, Sunday October 9, Saturday November 12

This monthly series explores some of the exhibition’s most captivating images and examines how photographic techniques have evolved, through the eyes of local photographers from various fields, including photojournalism, fashion photography, travel photography and blogging. Speakers include Robert McFarlane, Ian Golding and Robert MacColl.

MY GEN 50+: Conversations with Curators 2.30pm, Wednesday September 14

Rosie Hays, Associate Curator, Australian Cinémathèque leads a conversation offering insight into the exhibition.

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