Colette, Paris, France, 1952


Gelatin silver print

35.5 x 23.4 cm (14 x 9 3/16 in.)

Through an original double portrait, the writer Colette, captured in her Parisian home in the Palais Royal district, stares at us with a reflexive expression on her face, a finger pressed against her mouth. Her black outfit with white polka dots formally echoes the dress of her companion and housekeeper, Pauline Vérine, who stands behind her like a ghostly figure. In spite of this similarity, there are many contrasts: one is sat, the other is standing; one looks at us, the other not; one is in the light, the other is spectral.

Already highly renowned at the time, Henri Cartier-Bresson stands out for his talent as a portraitist. He knows how to follow the flow and capture in a spontaneous manner the personality of his models, whom he selects among the greatest artists and thinkers of his time, guided by his admiration for them. This is one of the last portraits of the famous writer who at the time is almost 80 years old, and once again Cartier-Bresson has sought to capture “the inner silence of a consenting victim.”

Colette, Paris, France, 1952 is presented for the first time as part of the Pinault Collection in the monographic exhibition Henri Cartier-Bresson. Le Grand Jeu at Palazzo Grassi in Venice, in 2020.