Harry Gruyaert, European Master of Color

March 5, 2020


The first U.S. solo exhibition of Paris-based photographer Harry Gruyaert (Belgian, b. 1941) is on view from January 23 through March 14, 2020, at Howard Greenberg Gallery. Well known in Europe for his street photography, his work is admired for its extraordinary use of color much like his American contemporaries Joel Meyerowitz, Saul Leiter, Stephen Shore, and William Eggleston. Gruyaert has been a member of Magnum Photos since 1982.

© Harry Gruyaert, Calcutta, India, 2001

The 2018 documentary “Harry Gruyaert Photographer” illustrates how Gruyaert’s life was saved by color. Born to the repressed and grey background of a traditional Catholic Flemish family, Gruyaert later discovered the lights and color of Europe. Driven by the irresistible desire to be a photographer, he became a pioneer in European color photography. Gruyaert says “For me, photography is not only about composition and color, it has to say something about the time and the place.”

© Harry Gruyaert, Marrakech, Morocco, 1986

With an eye for idiosyncratic juxtapositions, Gruyaert has traveled the world finding bewildering beauty, complex constructions, and touching solitude. The exhibition covers his work in France, Spain, Belgium, Morocco, Japan, India, Russia and the U.S. Spanning four decades from 1981 through 2017, his photographs range from street scenes to seascapes, all punctuated with his unique, saturated approach to color. Often a lone figure can be found in his photographs, at times faceless or viewed from behind, evoking a loneliness of modern life or simply the serene banality of the quotidian. 

“I am interested in that strange magic that occurs when things come together. I look to form a connection to a place. I have to be moved by something,” said Gruyaert recently from his studio in Paris.

© Harry Gruyaert, Boom, Belgium, 1988

In an introduction to his recent book, “Edges” (Thames and Hudson, 2019), the American artist Richard Nonas notes, “He photographs the boundaries that hover just beyond our sight…the shadows of an actual reality too blurred, too confused, too nuanced for any language to hold. He captures it whole. He holds it. As powerful art. As heart wrenching beauty. As the overwhelming mystery of ungrammatical silence.” A forthcoming book, Harry Gruyaert: Last Call, will be published in the U.S. in April 2020 by Thames & Hudson.

© Harry Gruyaert, Sanitago de Compostella, Spain, 1998

Harry Gruyaert

January 23 – March 14, 2020
Howard Greenberg Gallery
41 E 57th St 14th floor
New York, NY 10022


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