Jeu de Paume : Frank Horvat

That Jeu de Paume appreciates the photographer Frank Horvatwho died on October 21, 2020 at the age of ninety-two, with an exhibition running at the Château de Tours until October 30, 2022. Accompanied by a monograph, it offers a new insight into the photographer’s fiery activity during the first fifteen years of his career, from 1950 to 1965, a period in which he confirmed an exceptional personality as an author, reporter and fashion photographer.

Francesco Horvat was born in 1928 to Jewish parents from Central Europe in Abbazia, Italy. In 1939 he had to flee with his mother and sister to Switzerland near Lugano. After the war he loaned to Milan, he tried himself in advertising, and then as a photographer. His first pictures were published in Italian and Swiss newspapers in the early 1950s Epoca, The Week and She and he.

An admirer of Henri Cartier-Bresson, whom he visited in Paris in 1951 hoping to join the Magnum photo agency, he acquired a Leica and made his first initiation trip to Pakistan and India from 1952 to 1954.

He managed to capture close-ups of intense scenes and sometimes forbidden places, and he proved himself a photographer of the body and the intimate.

After Die Woche the major international magazines Paris-Match, Picture Post, Le Ore or life published it under the name of Franco, then Frank Horvat, and Edward Steichen chose one of his paintings of Pakistan for the exhibition The family of man at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (MoMA). He continued his career as a photojournalist in London and Paris, where he settled in late 1955. In his reports on Parisian nights, striptease, cabarets, music halls and even places of prostitution, he captured the attitudes of viewers and voyeurs of the show itself.

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During this period, he acquired a Novoflex telephoto lens and tried a variety of new angles on Paris, enhancing the effects of grain and contrast, and taking advantage of shallow depth of field, saturation of public space, and crowd anonymity.

Romeo Martinez, publisher and editor-in-chief of the magazine cameradedicated twenty pages to this work in the January 1957 issue and exhibited it at the First Venice Biennale of Photography that same year.

It is the street images, picked up by several European photo magazines, that, paradoxically, led him to fashion. Through William Klein, who became aware of his images in Camera, he began a collaboration with Jacques Moutin, the artistic director of Jardin des Modes.

The latter offered him to implement his style of urban photography, coarse-grained, with natural light and in small format, to then stage fashion collections and especially ready-to-wear to the fullest. We have him to thank for his most famous pictures, such as Tan Arnold in the brasserie au chien qui fume or that of the woman in the Givenchy hat observing an imaginary race through binoculars. This incursion of a lively, humorous and unconventional “reportage spirit” into fashion photography seduced other magazines and Frank Horvat became a successful photographer. Monique Dutto at the metro exit, Nico in the Bois de Boulogne, Ana Karina in Les Halles performed in Jours de France. His work and approach was considered innovative in fashion circles. His natural scenarios were transformed into sophisticated compositions in the images he produced for British Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar between 1960 and 1962. Simone d’Aillencourt, China Machado or Vera Valdez, women from unusual backgrounds, posed in front of his lens.

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From this time on, however, Frank Horvat felt the desire to escape the stereotypical codes of photojournalism and fashion photography. Supported by the editor-in-chief of the German reportage magazine Revue, he undertook a major photographic essay around the world for eight months, which took him to Cairo, Tel Aviv, Calcutta, Sydney, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Los Angeles, New York, Caracas, Rio de Janeiro and Dakar between 1962 and 1963. In this last great black and white report he gave free rein to his fascination and his personal inspiration with sometimes hallucinatory vibes. Gaze plays, night scenes, fragility behind masks, melancholy of bodies, physical and romantic problems draw an intimate cartography of this photographer who has been driven throughout his life by introspective research and an inexhaustible search for new experiences.

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Consisting of the important archives and writings left by the photographer in his studio at home in Boulogne-Billancourt, the exhibition includes 175 prints and 55 documents from the period (publications, writings, books, contact sheets). In addition to emblematic images, it presents a series of lesser-known or completely unpublished photographs. The richness and uniqueness of a complex and multi-faceted body of work are thus made visible, placed in the context of the history of the photographic image and the illustrated press of the post-war period.

Virginie ChardinExhibition curator and specialist in the history of photography, is the author of several exhibitions and books on the unpublished archives of photographers such as Willy Ronis, Sabine Weiss and Pierre de Fenoÿl.

Frank Horvat
Jusqu’au October 30, 2022
jeu de paume Castle of Tours
25 Avenue André Malraux
37000 Tours, France

Frank Horvat 50-65
Texts by Virginie Chardin and Susanna Brown, foreword by Quentin Bajac and epilogue by Fiammetta Horvat
Joint edition of Jeu de Paume / Éditions de La Martinière, Paris
Bilingual French/English edition
24 x 28.5 cm – 288 pages, 235 black and white and color illustrations
ISBN: 979-1-0401-1154-2
Price : 45 €

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