Henri Cartier-Bresson (French, 1908 - 2004)

1933. Oil on canvas, 7 13/16 x 11 3/16". 1998.006.049

Drawn into the circle of the French Surrealists, Henri Cartier-Bresson came to share their belief in the capacity of photography to undermine accepted ideas about reality. In the early 1930s, he made an acclaimed series of photo- graphs of the poor and the dispossessed in Italy, Spain, and Mexico. In making these images, Cartier-Bresson perfected his idea of the “decisive moment,” his characterization of the style that became his trademark. “Above all,” he once said, “I craved to seize the whole essence, in the confines of a single photograph, of some situation that was in the process of unfolding itself before my eyes.” Here, the flattening effect of the camera has produced an unexpected image in which the boys seem to be enveloped in graffiti.

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