Born in 1908 in Normandy, Henri Cartier-Bresson developed a passionate interest in art as a teenager, and by the time he was twenty, he had come to Paris to study painting. Beginning in 1932, when he bought his first Leica, Cartier-Bresson photographed throughout Europe, West Africa, and America, including a trip to Mexico in 1934 and to Spain in 1937, where he also made a documentary film on hospital care in Madrid during the Spanish Civil War. During the 1930s, he had exhibitions in New York at the Julien Levy Gallery. After returning to France, he also worked with director Jean Renoir on The Rules of the Game and other films. Drafted in 1939, Cartier-Bresson served in the Film and Photo Unit of the French Army. He was captured in 1940 and spent three years in Germany as a prisoner of war before he escaped and returned to France. There, he worked underground to document the German occupation. In 1945, he made a film on the homecoming of POWs for the U.S. Office of War Information. The following year, the Museum of Modern Art mounted its first major exhibition of Cartier-Bresson's work, which was first planned as a posthumous celebration, for the curators believed he had not survived the war. After 1947 he worked for Magnum, the cooperative agency he helped found, traveling around the world and photographing for a wide range of magazines, while his work was regularly exhibited in major museums. For more than two decades, Cartier-Bresson has devoted his time to drawing and painting landscapes and portraits.

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