Lot 4
  • 4

Henri Cartier-Bresson

70,000 - 100,000 USD
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  • Henri Cartier-Bresson
  • Signed in ink on the reverse
  • Gelatin silver print
  • 6 1/2 x 9 3/4 inches
signed in ink on the reverse, framed, 1933


Estate of George Platt Lynes

By descent to George Lynes, the photographer's nephew

Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, 2005


Lincoln Kirstein and Beaumont Newhall, The Photographs of Henri Cartier-Bresson (The Museum of Modern Art, 1947), p. 17

Henri Cartier-Bresson, The Decisive Moment (New York, 1952), pl. 13

Peter Galassi, Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Early Work (The Museum of Modern Art, 1987), p. 108

Documentary & Anti-Graphic Photographs by Cartier-Bresson, Walker Evans & Manuel Álvarez Bravo (Göttingen, 2004), p. 105

Robert Delpire, et al., Henri Cartier-Bresson: Photographer (Boston, 1979), pl. 90

Jean-Pierre Montier, Henri Cartier-Bresson and the Artless Art (Boston, 1996), pl. 14


This scarce and warm-toned early print, on heavy paper with a smooth surface, is essentially in excellent condition. It is trimmed flush to the image, with partial 35mm sprocket holes just visible on the right lower edge. The print has the subtle tonality and muted contrast typical of Cartier-Bresson's early prints. The edges are slightly rubbed. The corners are bumped, with tiny emulsion losses at each tip. On the reverse at the left side, there is a faint rust-colored deposit, possibly adhesive remains. The gallery inventory number 'PF96638' is in pencil at the lower edge. This print does not appear to fluoresce when examined with ultraviolet light.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

Seville, an image included by Cartier-Bresson in his definitive volume, The Decisive Moment, captures the thrill of children at play in buildings reduced to rubble.   ‘Cartier-Bresson could lasso an instant of time,’ Nancy Newhall once wrote, ‘and the cry, the menace, the joy were caught in subtle lines, juxtapositions, accents’ (From Adams to Stieglitz, p. 148).   The print of Seville offered here, rare in its early state, comes originally from the collection of the photographer George Platt Lynes, who photographed Cartier-Bresson in 1935 on the latter’s first visit to New York.

Platt Lynes and Cartier-Bresson’s connection was Julien Levy, who had given Cartier-Bresson his first New York showing in 1933, and then featured him, along with Walker Evans and Manuel Álvarez Bravo, in the revolutionary Documentary & Anti-Graphic exhibition of 1935.   George Platt Lynes’s work was included in no less than five shows at the Levy Gallery in the 1930s, among them a one-man show—Fifty Photographs by George Platt Lynes—in 1934.    His studio was near Levy’s gallery at 602 Madison Avenue.

The spontaneity of Cartier-Bresson’s pictures belies the precision with which they were taken.  Before taking photographs, he immersed himself in the life and culture of a locale, as he did in Spain for three months in the summer of 1933.   His hand-held Leica gave him agility and speed, but he was deliberate in his picture-taking.   As he described it, he waited and watched for the moment that would ‘trap life—to preserve life in the act of living . . . I craved to seize, in the confines of one single photograph, the whole essence of some situation that was in the process of unrolling itself before my eyes’ (The Mind’s Eye, p. 22). 

It is believed that Seville and its variant—called ‘enfants maison en demolition à Seville’ on Cartier-Bresson’s manuscript list of the photographs he sent to Levy—were included in his first show at the Julien Levy Gallery in 1933, and again in the Documentary & Anti-Graphic exhibition of 1935.   It is possible that the print offered here was made in New York City.   Prints from this early period of Cartier-Bresson’s career are scarce.   As Cartier-Bresson authority Peter Galassi has described it, ‘In the early 1930s, Cartier-Bresson made his own prints but he did not make a great many, since his audience at the time was small.  The great majority of surviving prints were made for exhibition at the Julien Levy Gallery; a few others were gifts to friends’ (Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Early Work, p. 143).