Eugene Atget 1857-1927

Biography

Born in 1857 in Libourne, France, Eugene Atget began his career as a painter before turning to photography later in his life. A private man, he set out to document the architecture and urban views of Paris at the end of the 19th Century. He sold his images to painters as studies to sustain himself.Although Atget did not take photographs with any intent to mystify, his work received some of its first critical exposure in a surrealist context.His photography offers a dream-like ambiance with strong surface quality and nostalgic space in what was otherwise a bustling city. The emptiness of most of his streets and the sometimes blurred figures in those with people are partly due extended exposure times in the haze of early morning. Bernice Abbott and Walker Evans became two of Atget's greatest disciples, transposing the streets of Paris with those in America, captivated by the stillness and limitless possibility of architecture and light.

His work show various historic architecture and city-planning of Paris, including many places soon to be demolished which then still stood from before the French Revolution' quaies, bridges and shop window displays as well as timeless views of the parks of Versailles, Saint-Cloud and Sceaux. In addition to the urban environment, Atget photographed street life, fairs, and the peripheral night life. 

Atget's matter of fact depiction of his subjects and exploration of themes such as doorways, staircases and facades anticipate the type of classification found in the work of the Bechers and much contemporary practice. 

In 1968, the New York's Museum of Modern Art bought Atget's archive, and through a series of MoMA exhibitions and publications Atget duly entered the pantheon of 'Masters' of photography. 

His work is also in the George Eastman House Collection, the Victoria and Albert Museum and in infinite private collections internationally.

James Hyman Photography offers a selection of vintage albumen prints by this distinguished artist.

Works