Yousuf Karsh: Pablo Casals, 1954

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In the Abbey de Cuxa in Prades, I spent several glorious hours with the master of the cello. Our rapport was instantaneous – he trusted me to carry his cherished instrument. I was so moved on listening to him play Bach that I could not, for some moments, attend to photography. I have never photographed anyone, before or since, with his back turned to the camera, but it seemed to me just right. For me, the bare room conveys the loneliness of the artist, at the pinnacle of his art, and also the loneliness of exile.Years later, when this portrait was on exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, I was told that an elderly gentleman would come and stand in front of it for many minutes each day. When the curator, by this time full of curiosity, ventured to inquire gingerly, “Sir, why do you stand day after day in front of this portrait?” he was met with a withering glance and the admonition, “Hush, young man, hush – can’t you see, I am listening to the music!”

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