Born to a prosperous mercantile family in Hamburg and educated in Europe, Brandt absorbed the lessons of the Surrealists while perfecting his photographic technique in Man Ray’s studio in Paris in 1929. He then settled in London, where, like his contemporaries André Kertész, Brassaï, and Henri Cartier-Bresson in Paris, he made his name in the 1930s with photographs that pretended to objective reportage. His constant search for more expressive and poetic subjects brought him to the realization that his richest storehouse of imagery was not the external world but the mysterious chambers of his own imagination. In the psychologically haunting and formally inventive portraits and nudes of the next fifteen years, the photographer explored his private fantasies through the distorting lens of a wide-angle camera. The compressed space in Nude, Campden Hill, London, for instance, suggests both the incongruous scale inversions and claustrophobic Victorian atmosphere of Alice in Wonderland, one of Brandt’s favorite books, and the hallucinatory, kinesthetic exaggerations of the Surrealists.
Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings
Inscription: Inscribed on print, verso, center: "April 1949"; bottom center: "#6"; stamped on print, verso, bottom center: "BILL BRANDT"
The Estate of Bill Brandt
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Johnson Gallery, Selections from the Collection 7," December 12, 1994–March 12, 1995.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Small Interiors," February 5, 1996–July 21, 1996.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Naked before the Camera," March 27, 2012–September 9, 2012.
Brandt, Bill. Shadow of Light: Photographs by Bill Brandt. 1st American ed. New York: De Capo Press, 1977. no. 123.
Recent Acquisitions: A Selection, 1985–1986. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1986. p. 42.
Hermanson Meister, Sarah. Bill Brandt: Shadow & Light. New York: Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2013. p. 148.