(b Brasso, Transylvania, Hungary [now Romania], 9 Sept 1899; d
Nice, 8 July 1984).
French photographer, draughtsman, sculptor and writer of Hungarian birth.
The son of a Hungarian professor of French literature, he lived in Paris in
1903–4 while his father was on sabbatical there, and this early experience
of the city greatly impressed him. In 1917 he met the composer Béla Bartók,
and from 1918 to 1919 he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest.
Due to the hostility between Hungary and France in World War I he was unable
to study in France and so moved to Berlin in late 1920. There he became
acquainted with László Moholy-Nagy, Kandinsky and Kokoschka and in 1921–2
attended the Akademische Hochschule in Charlottenburg, Berlin. He was a keen
draughtsman and while there produced a series of characteristic drawings of
nudes executed in an angular, emphatic style. In 1924 he moved to Paris,
where he quickly became involved with the artists and poets of the
Montmartre and Montparnasse districts while supporting himself as a
journalist. In 1925 he adopted the name Brassaď, derived from that of his
native town, and throughout that year he continued drawing as well as making
sculptures. In 1926 he met André Kertész, who introduced him to photography.
In 1930 Brassaď began taking photographs of Paris at night, concentrating on
its architecture and the nocturnal activities of its inhabitants. These were
collected and published as Paris de nuit in 1933 and showed the night
workers, cafés, brothels, theatres, streets and buildings of the capital.
The artificial lighting created strong tonal contrasts, lending the images a
strikingly evocative beauty. Some of his photographs were included in the
exhibition Modern European Photographers at the Julien Levy Gallery
in New York in 1932, and the following year at the Arts et Métiers
Graphiques in Paris he had a one-man show of his photographs of Paris, which
travelled to the Batsford Gallery in London the same year.