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Hyères, France

Black and white photograph of bicyclist on cobbled street, from top of curved staircase.

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  • Black and white photograph of bicyclist on cobbled street, from top of curved staircase.


1932, printed 1930/39


Henri Cartier-Bresson
French, 1908–2004

About this artwork

In Hyères, France, Henri Cartier-Bresson captured the instant when an ever-moving image—in this case, a bicyclist streaking by an iron railing—achieves a timeless harmony of form, expression, and content. An early work, taken before Cartier-Bresson was a professional photographer, this picture of the world in flux shows spontaneity, intuition, and a Surrealist whimsy. Cartier-Bresson’s keen sense of composition derived, in part, from his training as a painter, as well as an acknowledged indebtedness to André Kertész. Both photographers used a miniature Leica camera, which allowed for thirty-six exposures in quick succession and, because of its compact serviceability, acted as a true extension of the eye. So definite was Cartier-Bresson’s rapid-fire release of the shutter that he used the entire negative of the final print, unretouched and unmanipulated. This remarkable capacity to seize life’s calculated and coincidental ambiguities explains why his is one of the most influential visions of the twentieth century. In addition to his later celebrated photojournalistic works, Cartier-Bresson produced two films, published more than a dozen books, and in 1947 helped establish the collaborative photography agency Magnum.


Currently Off View


Photography and Media


Henri Cartier-Bresson


Hyères, France


France (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.

Made 1932


Gelatin silver print


Unmarked recto; inscribed verso, center, in blue ink "Henri Cartier-Bresson, 31 rue de Lisbonne, Paris 8"; verso, center, in pencil: "1" [encircled]; verso, bottom right, in red pencil: "B 418"; verso, lower bottom, in pencil: "37.648 J. Levy"; verso, top left, in pencil: "059"


Image/paper: 19.8 × 29.5 cm (7 13/16 × 11 5/8 in.)

Credit Line

Julien Levy Collection, Gift of Jean and Julien Levy

Reference Number


Extended information about this artwork

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