Revealed: the undeveloped art of Henri Cartier-Bresson

Edinburgh festival » season starts with a show of drawings by the man behind many of the world's most famous photographs
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The Independent Online

But a year after his death, Henri Cartier-Bresson's little-known work as a graphic artist will take centre stage in a new exhibition celebrating his life.

Cartier-Bresson, who died last August at the age of 95, stopped taking photographs some 20 years before his death. He started drawing instead, producing pencil and ink sketches of scenes in his native France.

The exhibition at the Dean Gallery in Edinburgh, from next Saturday, will mark the first time that his drawings have been shown in this country. They include a drawing produced in 1991 of a tree-lined canal in L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue in the south of France.

As well as about 30 of Cartier-Bresson's drawings, the exhibition will present the widest selection of his work ever seen with more than 250 pieces. Exhibits will also include his birth certificate and driving licence, as well as photos from his childhood.

Cartier-Bresson's work as a photographer took him all over the world, and he often found himself at the heart of historic events. In 1940 he was taken prisoner by the Germans but escaped three years later on his third attempt.

He was the first Western photographer allowed into the Soviet Union after the Second World War, and as one of the co-founders of Magnum Photos, he was responsible for setting up the world's most famous photographic agency.

But in the 1970s, as he reached retirement, he decided to devote his energies to drawing, mainly using pencil, pen and ink. Cartier-Bresson had studied painting in the 1920s under the guidance of the cubist artist André Lhote before taking up photography.

Patrick Elliott, the senior curator at the Dean Gallery, believes Cartier-Bresson's work appeals to a wide range of art-lovers. "A lot of people will recognise the images in the show, whether or not they know who Henri Cartier-Bresson is," he said.

The exhibitionkick-starts a month of premier arts events in Edinburgh. Six different festivals will take place in the city over the coming weeks, with more than 1,800 shows at nearly 300 venues at the Fringe Festival alone.