Henri Cartier Bresson in Paris and John Stewart in Saint Rémy

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John Stewart, Cotton and ivy, at Musée Estrine in Saint Rémy

Many landscapes unite John Stewart (1919-2017) and Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004),  who both liked spending the summers near Apt and had developed a strong professional friendship during their long lives. In Paris, Fondation HCB is presenting a series of landscapes in “l’Expérience du paysage”, before a new 100 square m space opens in November with a Martin Parr-HCB exhibition. The 70 pictures were selected for an exhibition in Japan in 1999, by HCB himself with Agnès Sire and François Hébel, director of the foundation, and they represent well the artist’s relationship to the world. A few drawings are shown in the first gallery and testify of the photographer’s love for this other medium. And if you are in Provence for the Arles exhibitions, in Saint Rémy de Provence, John Stewart’s still lives are exhibited at Musée Estrine.

Henri Cartier-Bresson, Isle sur la Sorgue, France, 1991

I once drove HCB home from a Magnum dinner party taking place at Richard Kalvar’s, the then President’s house. When we arrived at the statue of Joan of Arc by the Louvre, he asked me to come upstairs to his pretty flat overlooking the Tuileries gardens and offered me a whisky. All he was interested in, was to show me his drawings which he had been devoted to making since the 1970’s. He had given up photography by then. So I was happy to see a few of his views of the Tuileries in the show. “Regarding drawings, HCB constantly expressed the need for experimenting and correction, contrary to photography which had to be “just right” straight away”, says Hébel.

Lake Servan, Armenia, Soviet Union, 1972, Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson/ Magnum Photos

Both photographers were prisoners during the war, both were very International (Stewart was British) and travelled extensively. In the show, shots of Spain, Sienna, Venice, the Rhine, hang alongside those of Serbia, Armenia, Kashmir and Provence. When he was a student, HCB hesitated between becoming a painter or a cinematographer. While working with Jean Renoir, he made three documentaries one the Spanish civil war. When he created Magnum Photos with Robert Capa in 1947, he chose to become “the eye of the century “as he is sometimes nicknamed. “Photography is an immediate action, drawing is a meditation”, in the master’s own words. But many of his pictures lead us to meditate…

Serbia, 1965, Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson/ Magnum Photos

John Stewart met HCB in 1951 in Provence and always remained close to him. After working as a fashion photographer in New York for Harper’s and Vogue, he started doing personal work inspired by the great painters. This show of 13 photographs at Musée Estrine is a tribute to Zurbaran, Morandi and Chardin with some old charcoal prints (tirage au charbon) by Fresson dating from 1992. This it the time I met John who had just completed a series of shots in abandoned farmhouses near Apt. His exhibition at Anna Bonde’s gallery in Bonnieux struck me with its intensity and simplicity. There are some prints from 2004, “Glasses” and from 2000. John who had been a prisoner of the Japanese from 1942 to 1945, worked on the building of the bridge over the river Kwai and the train line in Thailand. From this dramatic experience he always kept a love for austerity and a fascination for the Japanese culture. Until September 24. Musée Estrine in Saint Rémy de Provence.

Fondation HCB, until September 25. From November 8, HCB “with” Martin Parr.

John Stewart, Tribute to Zurbaran, 1975, private collection

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