Display Case 1: Writers in Paris
In 1963, Freund became the first photographer to display work in the National Portrait Gallery as part of the exhibition, "Le portrait francais au xxe siecle [French portraiture in the 20th Century]," at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris. Freund had not only photographed some of greatest artists of the 20th century, her work also spoke to a time when there was great artistic collaboration between England and France in 1930s Paris.
After the exhibition in Paris, Freund was invited to London to give a talk about the Anglo-French artistic scene of 1930s Paris. Her work was well-received by the English press, and she was approached by publishers to do a photographic book about her time in Paris. Cyril Connolly, the great English author, editor, and critic, agreed to write the Preface to the book (he pulled out at the last minute and was replaced by Simone de Beauvoir).
The collection at the University of Victoria includes Freund's copy of the program from this exhibition, as well as her handwritten lecture notes.
Call number: Gisèle Freund Fonds SC043
André Malraux, 1964
André Malraux played an important part in Freund's career. In 1933, he won the prestigious Prix Goncourt for his novel, La Condition humaine. Malraux needed an author's photo but he "hated conventional portraits," so Freund took him up to the rooftops of Paris and "posed him against the Paris sky," where she captured these famous photographs of Malraux smoking a cigarette and being buffeted by wind. These photographs would be used to create a commemorative postal stamp of Malraux (with the cigarette airbrushed out, of course) in the 1980s.
In 1935, Malraux invited Freund to be the official photographer of the First International Congress for the Defence of Culture in Paris, attended by André Gide, Henri Barbusse, Aldous Huxley, Boris Pasternak, among many others.
"one sees his strange eyes"
Samuel Beckett was an Irish author who lived most of his life in Paris. He was James Joyce's amanuensis during the writing of Finnegans Wake and is known for great modernist plays, including Waiting for Godot. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1969.
Freund was captivated by Samuel Beckett's gaze. She writes on the back of this photograph, "one sees his strange eyes."
Beckett wrote much of his later work in French, including En attendant Godot.
His letter to Freund was written in French and reads:
Dear Samuel Beckett,
In October 1965, Harcourt Brace World Publishing in New York will publish my book James Joyce in Paris, in which I include photographs of Joyce, Paris, the 1930s, and some selected portraits of his contemporaries and friends. This book will probably be published in multiple countries.
I would like to publish in this book the portrait I took of you, I would be grateful if you would give me permission to do so.
“I authorize Gisèle Freund to publish my photo in her book, James Joyce in Paris.
[all translations Huculak]
Henry Miller lived in Paris from 1930-1939, where he wrote the famous (but scandalous at the time) Tropic of Cancer. He became a lifelong friend of Lawrence Durrell, whose papers are also housed at the University of Victoria.
Letter from Miller to Freund
Henry Miller's letter, sent from his home in Pacific Palisades, California, reads:
January 11th 1965
Dear Madame Freund–
Yes, I remember very well! However, I never knew Joyce, never even met him once. Certainly he influenced me, as he did all writers of our generation. I wrote about him – not too favorably – in an essay called "The Universe of Death" (in "The Cosmological Eye", I think.)
Can't say much more now– am always overwhelmed with correspondence.
My best to you!