Bill Brandt - The Beautiful and the Sinister

Press Release | Amsterdam, December 2021  

Foam proudly presents the exhibition of one of the most influential and internationally acclaimed photographer and photojournalist Bill Brandt (1904- 1983). The Beautiful and the Sinister demonstrates the close relationship existing between the work of the British photographer and the art of the European avant-garde, in particular Surrealism. Departing from the notion that the sinister (unheimlich) is an ever present element of Brandt’s photographs, the exhibition shows how this characteristic manifests itself in both his artistic and documentary practice. From his earliest photographs in the nineteen-thirties, to his portraits and nudes in later years, Brandt shows a permanent fascination to the strange.

The Beautiful and the Sinister
Bill Brandt’s work of the nineteen-thirties is characterised by its emphasis on social inequality in England during that time. By using his family contacts, he was able to visualise the extreme contrasts of wealth in British society. Brandt was most innovative in his photographic experimentation of nudes. These photographs possess a great symbolic significance that in many cases is related to elements taken from psychoanalysis and Surrealism, such as a strong lighting contrast, the inclusion of elements like images, mirrors or doors and windows as symbols of escape. Most novel was his use of a wide-angle lens. It reshaped and distorted the viewpoint of the naked figure. In his landscape photography he combined nature and industry as he moved away from the picturesque. Brandt created a sombre vision of the United Kingdom, in which rainy landscapes and mists, and commonplace and industrial structures replaced the sublime in nature. Taking the idea of the sinister as one of the elements in Bill Brandt’s images, the exhibition shows how this idea appears throughout the artist’s practice, focusing on his photojournalism and the three genres of artistic photography: nude, portraiture and landscape.

Bill Brandt - The Beautiful and the Sinister<br>
Bill Brandt - The Beautiful and the Sinister<br>
Bill Brandt - The Beautiful and the Sinister<br>
Bill Brandt - The Beautiful and the Sinister<br>

About Bill Brandt
Hermann Wilhelm Brandt (1904-1983) was born in Germany to a British father and a German mother.In 1931 he moved to England where he initially became known for his photographs of British society. Later he made distorted nudes, portraits of famous artists and landscapes. His works exhibit important social commentary and a poetic resonance. His landscapes and nudes are dynamic and powerful, often using wide-angle lenses to create distorted compositions. Bill Brandt is widely considered to be one of the most important British photographers of the 20th century.

The exhibition is organised by Fundación MAPFRE in close collaboration with Foam.

For information and visual material please check or contact the Press Office of Foam on +31 (0)20 5516500 /

Foam is supported by the VriendenLoterij, Foam Members, De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek, the VandenEnde Foundation and the City of Amsterdam.

In 2021 Foam receives additional support from the Mondriaan Fund and Kickstart Cultuurfonds

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