Five decades of photography. Photographic exhibition of Bill Brandt at Fundación MAPFRE

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Ramón Esparza.
From June 3 to August 29, 2021.
Fundación MAPFRE Sala Recoletos. Paseo Recoletos 23, 28004 Madrid.

Bill Brandt

Born Hermann Wilhelm Brandt in Hamburg in 1904, into a rich family of Russian origin, he decided, after having lived in Vienna and Paris, to settle in London in 1934. In an environment of growing hostility towards the German, caused by the rising Nazism, he tried to erase all traces of his origins, even claiming that he was a native of the British island. That concealment and the creation of a new personality enveloped his life with an aura of mystery and conflict that were directly reflected in his work. His images try to build a vision of the country that he embraces as his own, but not of the real country, but of the idea of ​​it that he had forged during his childhood with readings and stories from his relatives.

Plagued by tuberculosis when he was young, it seems that it was in the Swiss sanitariums of Agra and Davos, where his family sent him to recover, that his interest in photography and many of his literary discoveries began: Fyodor Dostoevsky, Gustave Flaubert, Franz Kafka, Guy de Maupassant, Ernest Hemingway, and Charles Dickens. After spending a few years in Switzerland, he moved to Vienna to undergo a noveltreatment of tuberculosis by psychoanalysis. All these aspects have imbued his work and his life with a post-Romantic air. His photographs seem to always be at the limit, as they cause attraction and rejection at the same time and, as Ramón Esparza, curator of the exhibition, points out, they can be seen about the unheimlich, a term used by Sigmund Freud in 1919 for the first time. The unheimlich –which is usually translated as «the strange», «the sinister», «that which produces concern» and which, in the words of Eugenio Trías, «constitutes a condition and limit of the beautiful» - is one of the characteristic features that we meet throughout its entire trajectory. Psychoanalytic theories, one of the fundamental bases on which surrealism rested, permeated the cultural scene of the French capital during the 1930s. It was in 1930 when Brandt moved to Paris with his first partner, Eva Boros, to enter Man Ray's studio as an assistant. Without actively participating in any of the historical avant-garde groups, the artist was imbued with the ideas that boiled in a Paris in which young artists abounded, many of them immigrants, seeking to gain a foothold in the professional world. . His images from that early period have an air of a catalog of psychoanalytic "themes", a clear example of the influence that surrealism had on him.

Almost all his images, both those of a more social nature from before the war and those of his later, more "artistic" stage, maintain a strong poetic charge and that aura of strangeness and mystery so characteristic in which, as in his life, reality and fiction are always mixed.



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