Brassai: Letters to My Parents Paperback – Dec 1 1998
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From Kirkus Reviews
A volume of ebullient missives which track the artist's yearning for self-expression, as well as the details of his thrifty bookkeeping, which staved off starvation and the need to return home. Earnest is the adjective that best describes these bright, readable letters that Brassa (born Gyula Halasz in 1900) sent to his parents over the 20-year time-span of 192040. In 1920 he left Transylvania for Berlin, where he studied drawing at the Academy and wrote articles for the newspapers back home, then moved to Paris, where he eventually earned recognition and a living through the medium of photography. He mingled with both the cosmopolitan and bohemian, including Picasso, who once remarked that Brassa ``owned a gold mine but was exploiting a salt mine'' by choosing photography over the fine arts. Brassa--who expresses no regret over his fate--had begun taking pictures for pleasure, but found immediate success when some of his frank, sensual photographs of the city's lively nocturnal existence (he was fascinated, he said in a letter, by the way the city ``lives and moves'') were gathered and published as Paris at Night in 1931. After that life became easier: He was sought out for commissions, and Alexander Korda, spotting Brassa's eye for line and framing, hired him as a cameraman. In the last letters, however, when Brassa had become established and sought after, he sounds unchanged, still diligently noting what he spends on food and rent, offering a sanitized record of his romances, still self-absorbed but humble, and ever- passionate about the world and his travels. The only difference is a sad note of maturity creeping in, prompted by the news that his parents may have to leave their hometown as a result of imminent war. The biographical sketch that emerges here through practical details compensates for the dearth of reflections about art. (37 drawings and b&w photographs, not seen) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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A Hungarian by birth, he obviously loved all aspects of Paris. This is not only obvious in his art, but also in his writing. From 1920 til 1940, Brassai (born Gyula Halasz in 1899) kept up an almost religiously regular correspondence with his parents. These letters, some like diary entries, show his great affection for his family and home, but also for this extraordinary city in which he chose to live and work.
If you are at all interested in how a great artist finds inspiration and how he continues to grow from day to day, from triumph to triumph and indeed from struggle and disappointment to more struggle and even more disappoinment, these letters will thrill you. I have always been fascinated by Brassai (I own one of his images) and have never been able to find a satisfying biography that tells anything of his early life and history. Well, here is that book and it is in his own words and illustrated with several of his fine photographs. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.