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Eugène Atget

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Eugène Atget
(Libourne, France, 1857 - 1927, Paris, France)
Copyright restrictions may apply. There are no known restrictions for photographs by Eugene Atget that were published by Berenice Abbott in 1956. The Library of Congress has been unable to ascertain who owns the rights to these images. Commerce Graphics asserts that it holds Berenice Abbott's copyrights, but they do not claim the rights for this portfolio. The Museum of Modern Art, which owns Atget's negatives, reports that Atget had no heirs and believes that any rights may have expired. The Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco may hold rights to select works.
ULAN: Eugène Atget was born into a period of cultural flux. The city of Paris had changed dramatically from the agglomerative walled city to the expansive plan executed by Baron Georges Haussmann under the auspices of Emperor Napolean III. The reconstruction begun at mid-century was finally completed in the 1870's. Pockets of the older city remained intact, and Atget concentrated his photographic efforts on these sites. Although modernized Paris slips into the frame in some cases, Atget turned his back on the newly created urban monuments such as the Eiffel Tower and the Paris Opera, and also ignored the broad Parisian boulevards as subject matter. Instead, he appointed himself to the task of continuing the photographic topographical surveys begun in previous decades. These earlier projects had been government directed, but Atget assumed the role of surveyor using the "Guide practique a travers le vieux Paris" as his navigator. Ultimately, he sold large numbers of photographs to the same museums and libraries which housed the preceding topographical documentation. Atget's other clients included painters, printmakers, architects, designers, stonecarvers, metalworkers, art schools, and private collectors, amassing information on the Paris of an earlier era. Often a particualr photograph would appeal to more than one type of patron. The craft of the fine art photographic print was not important, as evidenced by the intrusion of the negative holder marking the edges of so many of his photographs or the corner vignetting resulting from his use of a rectilinear lens.
Although, some of his images have been co-opted by modernist photography because of their oblique viewpoints, chance juxtapositions, and often poetic austerity, the issue of creating documents that convey information is Eugène Atget's central thesis. Atget devised a complicated filing system of subject-matter classifications to catalog his eight thousand negatives. Exhibited on these walls are represented a few of the thirteen categories: Landscape-Documents, Picturesque Paris, Art of Old Paris, Environs, and Interiors. The placement of these works on the museum walls sequenced by category and not formal similarities provides yet another context for viewing Atget's work. --Cheryl Regan, 1989-1990 McIntire-Bayly Fellow

ULAN Note: Atget took up commercial photography in the late 1880s after a few failed attempts as a painter and an actor. He made a living primarily as a documentary photographer - using his camera to record the architecture of 'Old Paris' as well as France' popular culture. Although he focused primarily on photography's ability to be a neutral recording device, some of his photographs from this earlier period reveal a more artistic endeavor. By 1920, Atget's photography had turned almost entirely toward a more suggestive and innovative approach to the medium. It is these photographs, taken from 1920 until his death, whose ability to transform the ordinary' into art earned Atget a name with the Surrealists and a place in the history of photography after his death. French photographer.

Some information from Getty's Union List of Artist Names ® (ULAN)

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