University Archives


Cartier-Bresson's "Images A La Sauvette" Inscribed to Legendary Fashion Designer Balenciaga, Rare First Presentation

(BALENCIAGA, Cristobal) CARTIER-BRESSON, Henri. Images à la Sauvette. Paris: Éditions Verve, (1952). Folio, original pictorial boards. Housed in a custom clamshell box. Text and images fresh and crisp, signatures loosening but sound, slight bit of edge-wear and dampstaining some toning to spine of extremely good book.

First edition in French of “one of the greatest of all photobooks” (Parr & Badger), a rare presentation / association copy that unites two giants of 20th-century photography and fashion, inscribed in French by Cartier-Bresson on the half title: “à Balanciaga [sic], bien cordialement avec toute notre admiration [signed] Eli Cartier-Bresson [signed] Henri Cartier-Bresson” (very cordially with all our admiration), featuring 126 photogravures (many double-page) that define the idea of ‘the decisive moment,’ with cover designs by Matisse, housed in a custom clamshell box.

This first edition of Cartier-Bresson’s magnum opus, Images à la Sauvette (The Decisive Moment), is an exceptional presentation/association copy that unites two giants of 20th-century art, photography and fashion. Cartier-Bresson, “the Raphael of 20th-century photographers” (Icons of Photography, 58), inscribed this copy to legendary fashion designer, Cristobal Balenciaga, who brilliantly created clothes that “had their counterparts in the art of Picasso and Duchamp.” Hailed as “our master” by Christian Dior, the Basque-born Balenciaga—“the most influential fashion designer of the post-WWII years”—was famous for rarely allowing “a photographer to take his picture.” Cartier-Bresson was one of the very few granted that privilege when, in 1968, he photographed the designer as he prepared his final collection in Paris.

Just as Balenciaga brought a unique vision to fashion, with “clothes that have been described as having a timeless quality, a universality” (New York Times), Cartier-Bresson revolutionized photography. His “Images à la Sauvette is one of the greatest of all photobooks.” Containing 126 finely screened photogravures, it brings together many of his finest images and also possesses distinctive “unifying factors that elevate it into a great photobook. The first is the concept of the ‘decisive moment’ itself, which defines the elegance of Cartier-Bresson’s imagery… No one achieved it more often or better, but allied with it was Cartier-Bresson’s thoroughly clear-eyed view of the world— astute, non-sentimental, beautiful, profound” (Parr & Badger I:208). “One of the most important and influential photographers of this century” (Blodgett, 96), his vision “of ‘the decisive moment’ is one of the most enduring in photographic literature, and no one has articulated it better than its coiner, Henri Cartier-Bresson” (Roth, 134). Near the time Cartier-Bresson photographed Balenciaga in 1968, the photographer had recently divorced from Ratna Mohini (known as Eli), and, like Balenciaga, was beginning to withdraw from the profession that so powerfully expressed his genius. Cartier-Bresson’s inscription is signed by him, with that of Eli Cartier-Bresson in a different pen possibly signed at a different time. Cartier-Bresson had photographed artist Henri Matisse, who contributed the cover designs for this book, in his studio in 1944. Published simultaneously with the first English edition. Text in French. Issued without dust jacket and without separate caption pamphlet (prepared for the English edition only). With later wrappers. See Open Book, 154.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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