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                        The Gisèle Freund Photographs of James Joyce

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…It sometimes seems to me that most people know you as the photographer who made the most beautiful but tragic photo ever taken of any human being. 

– Verna Carleton to Freund about Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf, London, 1939

Virginia Woolf

Freund's photograph of Virginia Woolf is among her most famous shots. Freund visited Leonard and Virginia in their London home before the outbreak of war in England. 

Woolf was working on her last novel, Between the Acts, a story that takes place between the horrors of the two world wars. After the outbreak of war and long struggle with mental illness, Woolf drowned herself in 1941. 

Freund's co-author wrote, "…It sometimes seems to me that most people know you as the photographer who made the most beautiful but tragic photo ever taken of any human being. I can well understand why it breaks Leonard Woolf’s heart to see it.” 

–Verna Carleton to Gisele Freund, December 30, 1963

Back of Virginia Woolf Photograph: "To Marie, With Love, Gisèle"

Inscription of Woolf Photograph

Freund's photograph of Woolf is celebrated around the world and is still used to this day. We have Freund's autographed copy to her agent, Marie Rodell. 

Virginia Woolf, London 1939

To Marie
with love

Leonard Woolf Letter
Leonard Woolf letter for signed photo release

Leonard Woolf

In April 1965, Freund's co-author met with Leonard Woolf in London to discuss James Joyce in Paris. Woolf wrote Freund to give her his consent to use the Woolf photographs. 


Dear Miss Freund,

Mrs Carlton came to see me yesterday and I told her that I was quite willing for you to come later on and photograph the garden here. I understand from her that you wished me to agree to your using the photograph of my wife, my dog, and myself in your book on Joyce. I have no objection to you doing this.

Yours sincerely,

Leonard Woolf

Miroirs Francs, 1963

Review of Freund's Exhibition

A review of Freund's exhibition in the cabinet des Estampes in the periodical Miroirs Francs

It begins, "Chasseur d’images, Gisèle Freund révèle au cabinet des Estampes, son champ d’action: les écrivans" [A hunter of images, Gisèle Freund reveals, in the cabinet des Estampes, her preferred objects of pursuit: writers].

The caption for Woolf's photograph reads, "Vers le néant qui la fascine" [gazing into the nothingless that fascinated her]

"Then Joyce is dead: Joyce about a fortnight younger than I am. I remember Miss Weaver, in wool gloves, bringing Ulysses in typescript to our tea table at Hogarth House." January 15, 1941. 

– Virginia Woolf, on learning about Joyce's death

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