A Retrospective. This exhibition spans 50 years of Brandts far reaching career in an extensive assemblage of 155 vintage gelatin silver prints from the Bill Brandt Archive in London.
British master photographer Bill Brandts
wide ranging work is explored in a
comprehensive exhibition Bill Brandt: A
Retrospective on view at the National
Portrait Gallery. From Brandts early
work that documents fixed social
contrasts of pre-World War II life in
Britain to his later experimentation
with a surreal style, this exhibition
spans 50 years of Brandts far reaching career in an
extensive assemblage of 155 vintage gelatin silver prints
from the Bill Brandt Archive in London.
No other British photographer has made so many memorable photographs as Bill Brandt. He excelled in all fields -social scenes, Surrealism, night photography, wartime documentary, landscape, portraiture and the nude, writes Mark Haworth-Booth, curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
Brandt worked as Man Rays assistant in Paris in 1929 and returned to London in the 1930s to become a freelancer for the Weekly Illustrated. Some of this work was later published as his first book, The English at Home. In contrast with his contemporaries in Depression-era America, Brandt developed an expressive, high-key style that pushed accepted boundaries of documentary and journalism when photographing the destitute villages and mining towns of northern England.
He photographed sharp social contrasts, the glittering surfaces of a rich and imperial city, compared with its humble East End; the coal-black buildings of the northern industrial heartland and the cool, moonlit streets of black-out London during the period of eerie calm at the beginning of the Second World War, describes Haworth-Booth.
During the blitz of World War II, Brandt photographed London by night and followed the crowds into the Underground to escape the bombs. After the war, Brandts work underwent a shift in focus. He left his documentary style behind and returned to his interests in the surreal. As Brandt himself explained it, his main theme of the past few years had disappeared; England was no longer a country of marked social contrast. Brandt then turned to nudes, portraits and landscapes.
Brandts formally plastic and haunting nude studies from this period were published in Perspective of Nudes (1961) and are considered today as some of his most innovative work. Using an old wooden plate camera with an ultra-wide-view lens, Brandt defined new territory showing among other things, photographys kinship with sculpture and modernist abstraction. At the same time, Brandt developed the symbolist potential of photography in a series of landscapes inhabited by the spirit of Romanticism and directly inspired by the writings of poets and novelists such as Emily Bronte.
Himself an important figure of the British artistic and intellectual scene, Brandt produced striking portraits of celebrated contemporaries, such as Francis Bacon, E.M. Forster, Rene MagrittÃ© and Henry Moore.
In 1969, New Yorks Museum of Modern Art honoured Brandt with the first retrospective of his work. Several solo shows followed at both museums and galleries in Europe and the United States. In 1981, two years before Brandts death, the Royal Photographic Society inaugurated its National Centre of Photography in Bath with a retrospective.
Bill Brandt: A Retrospective, curated by John-Paul Kernot, is organised by the Bill Brandt Archive and is circulated by Curatorial Assistance, Los Angeles, CA.
National Portrait Gallery
Old Parliament House King George Terrace Parkes, Canberra ACT 2600,Australia