Archive for July 18th, 2009


Exhibition: ‘Robert Capa’ at Ludwig Museum – Museum of Contemporary Art, Budapest

Exhibition dates: 3rd July – 11th October 2009


Robert Capa. 'Barcelona or its vicinity, August 1936. Loyalist militiamen.' 1936


Robert Capa (Hungarian, 1913-1954)
Barcelona or its vicinity, August 1936. Loyalist militiamen
Gelatin silver print



Thankyou to the Ludwig Museum press office for allowing me to use these photographs to illustrate the post. Another exhibition about Robert Capa, This is War! Robert Capa at Work is on show at Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya from 7th July – 27th September, 2009


Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.



One of the greatest photographers of the 20th century, Robert Capa was born in Budapest, on October 22, 1913, as Endre Ernő Friedmann. He started to work as a photographer in the 1930s, first as a correspondent of Dephot, a Berlin-based agency. In 1933 he moved to Paris, where he befriended André Kertész, Henri Cartier-Bresson and David Seymour (Chim), and met with the great love of his life, Gerda Taro, also a photographer. He changed his name to Robert Capa in 1935, and his pictures of the 1936-1937 Spanish civil war were already published under this nom de plume. He immigrated to the US in 1939. Between 1941 and 1945, he worked on the European scenes of the war for Life magazine. He was one of the founders of the Magnum Photos agency. He died in May 1954, when he stepped on a landmine in Vietnam.

In 2008, a government grant enabled the Hungarian National Museum to buy 985 of Robert Capa’s photos from the collection of the International Center of Photography, New York. 48 of these are original prints by Robert Capa, and 937 form the so-called Robert Capa Master Selection III. Founded in 1974, the International Center of Photography holds about seventy thousand negatives made by the Hungarian born Robert Capa, considered the greatest war photographer of all time. In 1995, Cornell Capa (Robert’s brother, who died last year) and Richard Whelan (Robert Capa’s friend and biographer) selected 937 of these negatives to represent the oeuvre. Of these, three identical, limited-edition series were made, each excellent 40 x 50 cm print marked with Robert Capa’s dry seal. No further prints will be made. One of the series stayed in New York, the second was bought by the Tokyo Fuji Art Museum, Japan, and the third by the Hungarian National Museum. Not only does the series offer a comprehensive overview of the oeuvre, it also enables exhibition-goers to have a visual experience of important events in the history of the 20th century through high-quality material. The 937 pictures were made on four continents, in 23 countries. 461 were made before the Second World War, of which images of the Spanish civil war are the most important. 276 of these photos he made on the fronts of the World War – the poignant pictures of the D-Day landing in Normandy were later to inspire film director Steven Spielberg. 154 photos from after the world war illustrate more struggle and suffering during the establishment of the state of Israel and the Indochina War. 46 images bear testimony to the talent of Capa the portrait photographer, with pictures of Gary Cooper, Ingrid Bergman, Alfred Hitchcock, John Steinbeck, Pablo Picasso and others. ICP made a gift of large prints of 20 negatives considered especially important in the series, and five portraits of Robert Capa. In all, the national collection was enriched with 1010 photographs.

Robert Capa was a war photographer, with all the important traits of an excellent correspondent: he owned the right amount of persistence, aggressiveness to get to the scenes, resourcefulness and communication skills to match the capacities of a great artist: a high degree of sensitivity, the talent to recognise and choose subjects, and composition skills. Bravely, though not fearlessly, he was there in all of the large wars of the middle of the 20th century, and he struggled with the eternal dilemma of journalists and photographers, whether he is a hyena when his participation stops at recording the events, and does not extend to helping those who flee or are wounded. His vocation, to which his dedication was always complete, was thus a source of moral conflict for him, while also compelled him to show what he considered really important. To show things in a way no one else could because no one else was close enough. “If your pictures are not good enough, you weren’t close enough,” he said. He was close when the militiaman died, he was there in the bloodbath of the landing in Normandy, and he was of course close enough to the Indochina War when he stepped on that fatal mine. He lived an intensive, passionate life, taking risks, even gambling; a life that promised childlessness, social solitude, homelessness and a preordained mode of death. This was probably the only way to live through and show all that surrounded him.

A selection from the new acquisition, about 30 pictures, will be on view in the Hungarian National Museum, between March 6 and 15, 2009. The first large exhibition of this exceptional material opens in Ludwig Museum on July 2, and can be seen until October 11. A travelling selection is also planned, to be shown in ten Hungarian cities.

Press release from the Ludwig Museum website [Online] Cited 16/03/2019


Robert Capa. 'Near Zhengzhou, June-July 1938' 1938


Robert Capa (Hungarian, 1913-1954)
Near Zhengzhou, June-July 1938
Gelatin silver print



Near Zhengzhou, June-July 1938. As the Japanese advanced on Zhengzhou – the crossroads of the two major railway lines of northern and eastern China, and the gateway to the Hankow region – Chiang Kai-shek ordered the dikes of the Yellow River blown up. The flood, which halted the Japanese only temporarily, inundated eleven cities and four thousand villages, destroyed the crops of four provinces, and rendered two million people homeless. In this photograph Chinese soldiers are being ferried across the river.


Robert Capa (Hungarian, 1913-1954) 'Near Barcelona, October 1938' 1938


Robert Capa (Hungarian, 1913-1954)
Near Barcelona, October 1938
Gelatin silver print



Near Barcelona, October 1938. Farewell ceremony for the International Brigades. As an overture of friendship toward Hitler (who naturally wanted General Franco’s fascists to win the civil war), Stalin forced the Spanish Loyalist government to disband this Communist-supported force. This move was a terrible blow both to the Loyalist cause and to the men of the International Brigades.


Robert Capa. 'September 5, 1936. The death of a Loyalist militiaman' 1936


Robert Capa (Hungarian, 1913-1954)
September 5, 1936. The death of a Loyalist militiaman
Gelatin silver print



“The precocious Budapest teenager who would eventually become known to the world as Robert Capa did not aspire to be a photographer. He wanted to be a writer – a reporter and a novelist.”

Richard Whelan



Capa’s evolution into a press photographer and war reporter (all the while entertaining the idea of filmmaking) was fundamentally determined by history, as well as by factors like the accelerated technical developments in photography, the changes in the printed picture press in the 1920s as a result of the influence of motion pictures, as well as the increasingly refined techniques and strategies of photographers.

Capa distinguished himself among the ranks of war reporters who thought – with the visual appearance of magazine pages already in mind – in series of images that rolled like film footage, and who had the courage and the ability to “get in close” and show aspects of war and fighting on the front lines in a form that had hitherto been impossible, partly due to technological limitations and partly because of the restrictions of censorship.

Capa worked for a number of US and European agencies; his photo reports appeared in the columns of such publications as Vu, Regards, Ce Soir, Life, Picture Post, Collier’s and Illustrated. At the same time, in addition to his work as a photo correspondent, being one of the founders of the Magnum photo agency (1947), educating and supporting young photographers were of primary importance to him.

Following his death in 1954, his brother Cornell Capa, in addition to his own work as press photographer, strove to preserve and introduce to the world the oeuvre of his brother and his colleagues. As a first step, he expanded the International Fund for Concerned Photography, which he had co-founded with others in 1956. Then, in 1974, he established the International Center of Photography (ICP) – one of the world’s most prominent institutions of photography, simultaneously a museum, a school and an archive – with himself as director.

Between 1990 and 1992, Cornell Capa and Richard Whelan looked through Capa’s more than seventy thousand photos and chose 937 of them, the most outstanding photos of his oeuvre from 1932 to 1954, to represent the cornerstones of his life’s work and his career as a press photographer.

In 1995, from the 937 negatives that had been selected, three identical, excellent quality series were produced using traditional photographic technique. These consisted of 40 x 50 cm enlargements and marked with Robert Capa’s embossed seal. It was determined that no additional series could be made after this time. Of the three series, one remained in New York, the second one found a home in the Fuji Art Museum of Tokyo, and the third set was purchased by the Hungarian Ministry of Culture and added to the Historical Photo Collection of the Hungarian National Museum.

Besides the 937 photographs that constitute what is known as the “Definitive Collection”, the Hungarian National Museum also acquired 48 original Robert Capa vintage copies dating back to the same time. The backbone of the exhibition consists of selected groups of photographs. The more than 200 images lead viewers through the key stages of Robert Capa’s career as war correspondent through highlighted themes of his oeuvre, in chronological order.

The exhibition starts off with Budapest – presenting family photos, portraits and other documents – and moves on to the first serious commission in Berlin (the series on the speech given by the exiled Lev Trotsky in 1932, in Copenhagen) and the difficulties of the Paris years. Then we arrive to the most definitive stage in the oeuvre, the three-year period (1936-1939) spent photographing the Spanish Civil War and the Second Sino-Japanese War, during which Endre Friedmann / André Friedmann became Robert Capa, one of the most famous war press photographers in the world. Next we see the seats of world war operations: photos capturing the North African, Southern Italian and Sicilian fronts as well as the Normandy Landing on June 6, 1944. The “D-Day” series, which also served as inspiration to film director Steven Spielberg, is followed by images documenting the denigration of the French women who collaborated with the Germans and the liberation of Paris. The sequence of wartime photographs ends with images of the Ardennes Offensive and the advances of the Allied Forces. Capa’s post-world war work is represented by his reports on the establishment of the State of Israel and the associated conflicts, the immigrants and the refugees, as well as the material from his journey to the Soviet Union with John Steinbeck in 1947 and the photos of his 1948-1949 trip around Eastern Europe, which also include some Budapest shots. The chronological sequence ends with Capa’s photographs of Indochina and the photos taken on May 25, 1954, immediately preceding his death.

A separate section is devoted to the photographic documents of his social life, which became inextricably intertwined with his work as press photographer. His portraits which were taken in parallel with his war reports capture people that were important to him – colleagues, friends and lovers – as well as many prominent figures of the era, including Pablo Picasso, Ingrid Bergman, John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway.”

Press release from the Ludwig Museum – Museum of Contemporary Art Cited 10/07/2009


Robert Capa. 'Near Troina, Sicily, August 4-5, 1943. Reconnaissance mission.' 1943


Robert Capa (Hungarian, 1913-1954)
Near Troina, Sicily, August 4-5, 1943. Reconnaissance mission
Gelatin silver print


Robert Capa. 'American soldiers landing on Omaha Beach, D-Day, Normandy, France, June 6, 1944' 1944


Robert Capa (Hungarian, 1913-1954)
American soldiers landing on Omaha Beach, D-Day, Normandy, France, June 6, 1944
Gelatin silver print


Robert Capa. 'Omaha Beach, near Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy coast, June 6, 1944. The first wave of American troops landing on D-Day' 1944


Robert Capa (Hungarian, 1913-1954)
Omaha Beach, near Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy coast, June 6, 1944. The first wave of American troops landing on D-Day
Gelatin silver print


Robert Capa. 'Chartres, August 18, 1944' 1944


Robert Capa (Hungarian, 1913-1954)
Chartres, August 18, 1944
Gelatin silver print


Robert Capa. 'Chartres, August 18, 1944' 1944 (detail)


Robert Capa (Hungarian, 1913-1954)
Chartres, August 18, 1944 (detail)
Gelatin silver print



Chartres, August 18, 1944. Just after the Allies had liberated the town, a Frenchwoman who had had a baby by a German soldier was punished by having her head shaved. Here she is seen being marched home. Her mother (barely visible over the right shoulder of the man at right carrying cloth sack) was similarly punished.



Ludwig Museum – Museum of Contemporary Art

Palace of Arts, 
Komor Marcell u. 1, Budapest, H-1095
Phone: +36 1 555 3444

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday: 10am – 6pm
Closed on Mondays

Ludwig Museum of Art website


Back to top

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, an art and cultural memory archive, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. If you would like to unsubscribe from the email list please email me at and I will remove you asap. Thank you.

Join 2,874 other followers

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

Follow Art_Blart on Twitter
Art Blart on Pinterest

Blog Stats

  • 12,343,730 hits

Recent Posts

Lastest tweets

July 2009



If you would like to unsubscribe from the email list please email me at and I will remove you asap. Thank you.

Join 2,874 other followers