Henry Miller called Brassaï (born Gyula Halasz) "The Eye of Paris." As a photographer, journalist, and author of photographic monographs and literary criticism, he had an uncanny ability to capture the Paris art world of the mid-20th century. Conversations with Picasso
, originally published in 1964, is a collection of Brassaï's memoirs, resurrected from scraps of paper he stored in a huge vase each night after his talks with the famous Spanish painter, whose work he photographed from 1932 to 1962. In keeping with the lively bohemian spirit that so characterized Pablo Picasso's milieu, Brassaï wrote these notes in a vivid, conversational style, and they are now vignettes, of a sort, from a theatrical time capsule. Presented alongside the actual photographs he took during his visits with Picasso, Brassaï's anecdotes of the artist and his most intimate associates paint an unforgettable portrait of Picasso the master artist and the man. Sly humor and telling details embellish these accounts--in one particularly well-rendered scene, Picasso throws a temper tantrum over a lost flashlight--that vividly depict many of the artist's creative revelations, his insatiable curiosity, and his views on the art of his time, including that of the surrealists. One very strong image depicts Picasso, with brush in hand, using a palette made of newspaper. Confiscated by military censors due to the mere presence of World War II headlines, this photo represents one of the many wartime frustrations Picasso endured, including using a bathroom for a studio and secretly casting sculptures in scarce bronze at night. Underneath the worshipful posturing so prevalent in writings of the time, in which an everyday shopping list of paint colors is hailed as a prose poem, Brassaï offers an intimate chronicle full of loving detail of the impossible yet delightful enfant terrible. Entertaining, charming, light but truly satisfying fare. --A.C. Smith
From Publishers Weekly
Originally published in English in 1966 but long out of print, Brassa?'s intimate record of his friendship with Picasso is a remarkable, vibrant document, a dialogue between two creative giants. It spans the period from 1932, their first meeting at the height of the Surrealist movement, through the dark years 1943-47, when Brassa? (born Gyula Hal sz), the celebrated photographer of Parisian life, met frequently with Picasso's ever-shifting circle (Sartre, Camus, Dali, Malraux, Raymond Queneau, poets Paul ?luard and Jacques Pr?vert, etc.). The book then jumps to 1960, when Brassa? visits Picasso's villa in Cannes and renews their friendship after a 13-year gap. Diarylike entries alternate with free-for-all conversations reconstructed from notes, giving us an unorthodox, fresh portrait of Picasso. With verbal wit and striking directness, Picasso denounces fascism; discusses C?zanne, history, his obsession with African art; waxes philosophical on the transitoriness of existence; and comments on fellow artists. Through Brassa?'s eyes, we attend the 1941 underground "premiere" of Picasso's burlesque protest play, Desire Caught by the Tail; watch him creating revolutionary sculpture; and catch glimpses of his love affairs with Marie-Therese Walter, Dora Maar and Fran?oise Gilot. Though Brassa? seems rather in awe of his subject, his image of Picasso as a demiurge who gives life to any material he touches rings true. Illustrated with dozens of photographs by Brassa?. (June)
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