Bill Brandt

German/British Photographer | Born: 1904 - Died: 1983

Born in Hamburg, Germany, son of a British father and German mother, Brandt grew up during World War I, during which his father, who had lived in Germany since the age of five, was interned for six months by the Germans as a British citizen. Brandt later disowned his German heritage and would claim he was born in South London. Shortly after the war, he contracted tuberculosis and spent much of his youth in a sanatorium in Davos, Switzerland. He traveled to Vienna to undertake a course of treatment for tuberculosis by psychoanalysis. He was, in any case, pronounced cured and was taken under the wing of socialite Eugenie Schwarzwald. When Ezra Pound visited the Schwarzwald residence, Brandt made his portrait. In appreciation, Pound allegedly offered Brandt an introduction to Man Ray, in whose Paris studio Brandt would assist in 1930.

In 1933 Brandt moved to London and began documenting all levels of British society. This kind of documentary was uncommon at that time. Brandt published two books showcasing this work, The English at Home (1936) and A Night in London (1938). He was a regular contributor to magazines such as Lilliput, Picture Post, and Harper's Bazaar. He documented the Underground bomb shelters of London during The Blitz in 1940, commissioned by the Ministry of Information. During World War II, Brandt focused every kind of subject - as can be seen in his "Camera in London" (1948) but excelled in portraiture and landscape. To mark the arrival of peace in 1945 he began a celebrated series of nudes. His major books from the post-war period are Literary Britain (1951), and Perspective of Nudes (1961), followed by a compilation of the best of all areas of his work, Shadow of Light (1966). Brandt became Britain's most influential and internationally admired photographer of the 20th century. Many of his works have important social commentary but also poetic resonance. His landscapes and nudes are dynamic, intense and powerful, often using wide-angle lenses and distortion. Brandt died in London in 1983.

Source: Wikipedia


Bill Brandt was one of the acknowledged masters of 20th century photography. Taken as a whole, his work constitutes one of the most varied and vivid social documents of Great Britain. Brandt was largely self-taught in photography and worked as a student-assistant to Man-Ray in Paris from 1929 to 1930. This exposure would determine the surrealist undercurrent and tension of many of Brandt’s images. Brandt’s work was shown in numerous exhibitions throughout Europe and the US during his career, including two one-person exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in 1948 and 1969. There are over a dozen published books of his work from the 1930s through the 1980s. Brandt’s work was extensively collected by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Source: The Halsted Gallery

Shadow and Light
Author: Sarah Hermanson Meister, Bill Brandt & Lee Daffner
Publisher: The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Year: 2013 - Pages: 208
Bill Brandt was the preeminent British photographer of the twentieth century, a founding father of photography's modernist tradition whose half-century-long career defies neat categorization. This publication presents the photographer's entire oeuvre, with special emphasis on his investigation of English life in the 1930s and his innovative late nudes. The Museum of Modern Art has been exhibiting and collecting Brandt's photographs since the late 1940s, and has recently more than doubled its collection of vintage prints of his work, which forms the core of this selection. An essay by Sarah Hermanson Meister, Curator in the Department of Photography at MoMA, sets the artist's life and work in the context of twentieth-century photographic history. With rich duotone illustrations that highlight the special characteristics of Brandt's prints, this volume is an invaluable resource to students and scholars alike. Lee Ann Daffner, the Museum's Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Conservator of Photographs, contributes an illustrated glossary of Brandt's retouching techniques, enhancing the appreciation of Brandt's printing processes. The book also includes a generously illustrated appendix of Brandt's published photo-stories during the Second World War.
 
The Photography of Bill Brandt
Author: Bill Jay, David Hockney
Publisher: Abrams, Harry N., Inc.
Year: 1999 - Pages: 320
Bill Brandt, one of the most prolific 20th-century photographers, is beautifully represented by this volume, which contains nearly 400 of his black-and-white photographs. Author Bill Jay has divided this book into eight sections: A European Apprentice, Observing the English, Courting the Surreal, Journeys North, The Dark City (Brandt made haunting pictures of wartime London during the blackouts), A Return to Poetry, Portraying the Artist, and the Perfection of Form.
 
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