Dreamer (from the series

Bill Brandt

Dreamer (from the series "Nightwalk... a dream phantasy in photographs"

Vintage Gelatin Silver Print

24.8 x 19.5 ins (9.75 x 7.66 ins)

c.1939

HC 11496

Provenance

The Estate of Bill Brandt
Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

Exhibited

London Nights, Museum of London, London, 11 May - 11 November 2018 (This print)

Literature

Bill Brandt, "Nightwalk... a dream phantasy in photographs", Coronet (USA), January 1941 (p.54 illustrated full page)

Titled in pencil, on verso Dream
Photographer's "Photo Bill Brandt" stamp on verso.

Only known print.

The present work directly relates to Bill Brandt's Blackout in London photographs of the same moment, but is exceptional in having an overtly surreal significance. It is part of a small published series entitled "Nightwalk... a dream phantasy in photographs."

In his biography of Bill Brandt, Paul Delaney explains the significance of this picture as one of a sequence of seven pictures that formed a surrealist photo story for the American journal, Coronet. This image of the woman waking from her dream is the final image in the sequence. It frames the dream sequence with the opening image of the story, which it mirrors, that shows the woman asleep (Getty Museum, Los Angeles).

"In spring 1938, Eva Brandt became friendly with a fellow TB patient at one of her sanatoriums, Marjorie Beckett. She brought Marjorie to London to meet Brandt, or perhaps sent her there with an introduction. Eva's idea was that Marjorie was too shy, and needed to be drawn out socially.

But she also thought that if she was unable to be in London herself, then "Billy shouldn't be alone". And if he was going to have someone else, better that it should be someone Eva already liked. When Marjorie and Bill promptly fell in love, it was, on some level, what Eva expected and even wanted - though she clung to the belief that she would always be the most important woman in Brandt's life, whatever happened....

... his fascination with Marjorie led to a much bigger project of staging pictures, probably in the winter of 1939-40. Brandt took multiple shots and linked them into a narrative, publishing seven of them as Nightwalk: A Dream Phantasy In Photographs in the American magazine Coronet.

Nightwalk begins with Marjorie asleep in bed and ends with her waking up. In between is a dream sequence of five pictures in which she wanders through hallways and staircases in her dressing gown, carrying a Jack Russell, and meets a sinister figure played by Brandt's brother Rolf. She sleeps in a divan bed in Brandt's living room.

In the darkroom, Brandt montaged into the window a full moon and a roofscape with two chimneys, as in a scene from Robert Wiene's The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari (1920). This classic of German expressionist cinema supplies the nightmare atmosphere, the theme of somnambulism and the threatening madman - Rolf wears a Caligari-style stovepipe hat.

But Brandt's central idea, of female vulnerability, is only a subplot in Caligari. Although the sequence is presented as a woman's fantasy, the viewer doesn't see events through her eyes. Instead, we see what a male spectator would see and, on some level, enjoy: a half-dressed woman threatened with unspeakable acts of violation. There is nothing openly pornographic in Brandt's scenes, yet a sadistic imagination seems to be at work, one that is excited by the woman's fear." Paul Delaney, Bill Brandt, 2004.

Copyright The Bill Brandt Archive, London / Courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York / Zürich. 2018

British Photography / The Hyman Collection

Bill Brandt

Dreamer (from the series "Nightwalk... a dream phantasy in photographs"

Vintage Gelatin Silver Print

24.8 x 19.5 ins (9.75 x 7.66 ins)

c.1939

HC 11496

All images © the artist or copyright holder | Website © The Hyman Collection 2019