CHICAGO, IL.- Henri Cartier-Bresson (19082004) is one of the most original, accomplished, and influential figures in the history of photography. His celebrated work of the early 1930s helped to define the artistic potential of modern photography; a decade later, after surviving three years as a prisoner of war, Cartier-Bresson emerged from World War II determined to document a world in the midst of profound change. He did so in 1947 when he joined Robert Capa and others to found the Magnum photo agency, an organization that allowed photojournalists to reach broad audiences through such publications as Life and Paris Match, while still retaining independence and control over their work.
This exhibition of nearly 300 images is the first full retrospective devoted to Cartier-Bresson in three decades. It includes both his formally groundbreaking early images and his historically significant postwar workin India and Indonesia during struggles for independence, in China during the revolution, in the Soviet Union following Stalins deaththat redefined the field of photojournalism.
Following an exquisite presentation of the best of the early work, the exhibition is organized as a series of distinct sections. Several of these sections are devoted to his work in countries such as the United States, the Soviet Union, and France. Other sections present the themes that preoccupied Cartier-Bresson throughout his career: portraiture, the persistence of ancient customs and patterns of life, the transformation of these patterns by modern industry and commerce, the poetry of human encounters on the street, and the psychology of the crowd.
The retrospective, organized by the Museum of Modern Art, shows the rich interplay between Cartier-Bresson the artist, gifted at capturing the flux of life, and Cartier-Bresson the photojournalist whose lens shaped our understanding of seismic political and cultural changes across the second half of the 20th century. This retrospective is the first to draw upon the extraordinary resources and cooperation of the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson in Paris. It will premiere at the Museum of Modern Art in February 2010 and after its Chicago showing, travels to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.