Born in Berlin in 1908, Gisèle Freund was one of Europe’s most prominent photographers and
a pillar among French feminist intellectuals after fleeing Nazi Germany and settling in Paris in the 1930’s, where she pursued her doctoral studies at the Sorbonne. Her thesis on photography in France in the 19th century was met with scepticism, because photography was not considered a serious study then.

In the course of her long career, she went on about 80 photographic assignments around the world, mainly for Time and Life. As the only female founding member of Magnum, she earned her living as a photojournalist. Today however, she is noted for being one of the greatest portrait photographers ever.

“She was able, better than anyone, to reveal the essence of beings through their expressions,” said Ex-President Jacques Chirac. She captured André Malraux on a Paris rooftop, Aldous Huxley and André Gide at a congress for the defence of culture; Walter Benjamin sitting on a bench in the Bibliotheque Nationale; Vladimir Nabokov, Henri Michaux and Jean Paulhan in the editorial offices of the magazine Mesures and James Joyce playing the piano for his son.

She shot the first colour portraits of Simone de Beauvoir, Paul Valéry, Colette, André Breton, Virginia Woolf, and numerous writers and artists that will remain unforgettable in our memory.

Dr. Marita Ruiter, 2013 – Director of the Galerie Clairefontaine


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