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Eugène Atget


Eugène Atget, Saint-Cloud, 1906

Photographs showing park scenes, streets and rows of houses, window displays as well as the architectural details of Paris and its surroundings characterise the distinctive photographic oeuvre of Eugène Atget (1857 - 1927), considered to be one of the most important pioneers in the history of photography. From the last decade of the 19th century until his death in 1927 he produced an inexhaustible oeuvre comprising more than 10,000 pictures. Particularly in his photographs of old Paris, Atget’s work ties in with the great traditional photography of the city that was established in the 1850s. However, Atget went beyond mere documentation. His photographs are unique in displaying particular details and in the way they capture atmospheric effects. Taken at eye level, the mostly deserted scenes often appear like stages. In addition to this, Atgets images are characterised by a special atmosphere of light and reflections which - initially pointed out as a fault - finally led to a widespread reception of his work, particularly by Surrealist photographers such as Berenice Abbot and Man Ray.
Atget made his living by selling his photographs to painters for use as source material and to public institutions. It was Berenice Abbott who published his work and brought it to international attention after purchasing a large part of his photographic estate. In 1968 she sold the photographs to the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

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