Pantheon of Notable Aesthetes


John Huston, New York, 1947



Henri Matisse, Vence, France, 1944



Truman Capote, New Orleans, 1947



William Faulkner, Oxford, Mississippi, 1947



Joseph and Stewart Alsop, New York, 1947



Alberto Giacometti, Stampa, Switzerland, 1961



Martine Franck, Paris, 1975



Alfred Stieglitz, New York, 1946



Colette with her companion Pauline, Paris, 1952



George Balanchine, New York, 1959



Louis Kahn, Philadelphia, 1961



Max Ernst and Dorothea Tanning, 1955



Albert Camus, Paris, 1944



Jean-Marie Le Clézio with His Wife, Paris, 1965



Carl Jung, Küssnacht, Switzerland, 1961



Marie-Louise Bousquet, Paris, 1959



Coco Chanel, Paris, 1964



Pierre Josse, Alberto Giacometti’s studio, Paris, 1961



Madame Lanvin, Paris, 1945



Simone de Beauvoir, Paris, 1946



Jean-Paul Sartre, Paris, 1946


In the ongoing retrospective celebrating the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson currently appearing at the MOMA, the section featuring his celebrated portraits is my personal favorite. It boggles the mind to realize the breadth and scope of this peripatetic man’s work. Did he ever rest? One can only wonder.

Recognized as one of the great portraitists of the twentieth century, Bresson moved fluidly and effortlessly through life, photographing a veritable ‘Who’s Who’ of the most esteemed personalities of their day. Throughout his far-flung travels he was alert to every opportunity to add to his pantheon of notable people—mostly artists and writers—which eventually numbered nearly one thousand.

If this post is inordinately long and indulgently excessive, you have only this aesthete to blame. One can learn so much in studying the poses of these fascinating individuals. For example, contrast the exuberance of Marie-Louise Bousquet with her expressive hands and animated face against the arched deliberateness of the perfectly poised Coco Chanel. One day I would love to create an index of all Bresson’s portraits, adding a charmingly relevant, but surprisingly revealing, anecdote for each. I think it would make a provocative book.

Suffice it to say for now, however, that these few little known facts concerning Bresson’s methods in capturing his images are as fascinating as the man himself.

It is written that he preferred to picture his sitters at home.

It is also written that he was regarded as one of the art world’s most unassuming personalities, which undoubtedly, enhanced his ability to bring out the essence of the personalities captured within the frame of the lens.

Although he took many famous portraits, his own face was little known to the world at large, which had the advantage of allowing him to work on the street in peace.

When asked how long a session might take, he liked to answer, “Longer than the dentist but shorter than the psychoanalyst.”





~ by eaesthete on 06/01/10.

10 Responses to “Pantheon of Notable Aesthetes”

  1. wonderful assemblage of photos. they speak volumes as only the work of a good photographer can.

  2. Thanks for your exhibit! Aside from the very individual personality that comes through each portrait, I’m struck by the youthfulness of some and the gentle craggy age of others, more than the in-betweens. What’s more – we really seem to be in their presence. Let us know if your book idea comes through.

  3. This was an enjoyable way to start the morning! He was a great talent. There’s such a strong “mood”, for lack of a better word, in all the photos. You feel like you could just crawl into the frame and bask in the noirish ambience.

    As an aside, I had the privilege to join a private tour last week in Coco Chanel’s apartment in the Rue Cambon headquarters. And here you have her portrait in said apartment! Imagine having been a fly on the wall of THAT photo séance!

    As always, your choice of subjects is spot on. Félicitations!

  4. each so powerful, as if some of the intensity still radiates in these photographs. I note the Matisse for his continuing to appear to me in everything I pick up of late. John Huston’s youth,who knew?, and the Alsop portrait, oh and Simone-all thought provoking not to mention the furrowed brow of Jung-no wonder. Love this assemblage. xo Gaye

  5. fantastic post! love your book idea too…

  6. I am drawn to the eyes of Colette and the hands of Giacometti. Amazing truth detectors and creators of art.

  7. I am obsessed… I have stared at this post for the last 20 minutes. Such beautiful work… John Houston, Truman Capote, CC and George Balanchine {having danced for 15 years myself} are my favorite. I LOVE YOUR INDEX IDEA that would be a book to love!

  8. I think Paul Bowles belongs here.

  9. Thank you, I must see this show. Reggie

  10. I would like to subcribe. thank you.

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