Congés payés, Bords de Seine, France, 1938


Gelatin silver print

23.8 x 35.6 cm (9 3/8 x 14 in.)

A ‘luncheon on the grass’ from bygone days, the photograph Congés payés, bords de Seine, France, 1938 (“paid holidays on the banks of the Seine River”) immortalizes in an emblematic scene the new era of leisure brought to the French people by the social policies of the Popular Front. This view from above makes us the voyeurs of a couple lying in the shadow of a willow while in the background two bathers dip into the sunlit Marne River.

An eloquent witness of History through his photographic oeuvre, Henri Cartier-Bresson approaches it here through its intimate side. He manages to capture with subtlety and discretion the unique atmosphere of these happy days, both atemporal and gone by. Captured in a timeless moment, this scene of leisure in an idyllic landscape seems an ideal vision of a golden age.

Congés payés, bords de Seine, France, 1938 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.