Eugène Atget: Old Paris 1898 – 1924

Art Life , Exhibitions Oct 05, 2012 No Comments

From Sharne Wolff

In Woody Allen’s 2011 homage to his beloved French city Midnight in Paris, the character of Adriana, Picasso’s (fictional) mistress, says “that Paris exists and anyone could choose to live anywhere else in the world will always be a mystery to me”. Adriana was talking of the Paris of the 1920s, the same time that Atget (1857-1927) was taking some 8000 photographs of the city using his ‘bellows’ camera, heavy glass plates and albumen print technique. Eugène Atget: Old Paris at the Art Gallery of NSW is an exhibition comprising a selection of around 200 works primarily sourced from Musée Carnavalet, Paris and with more compiled by American artist Man Ray from the USA’s George Eastman House.

Between 1853 and 1870, under the instruction of Napoleon III, Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann was responsible for the modernisation of Paris. Haussmann’s new system of urban planning with its wide, grand boulevards and expansive parks became less attractive for artists who headed to the older, more exciting zones of the city to seek their subjects. Atget did the same with his camera, often working as a commercial photographer on behalf of institutions who were keen to capture images of the city’s disappearing heritage. Atget’s themes included decorative signs and street details, luxury interiors, picturesque Paris and landscape as well as the colourful residents of Paris going about their daily activities.

Until November 4
Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney.
Pic: Eugène Atget, Boulevard de Strasbourg 1912, albumen photograph, George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film, Rochester. Courtesy of the Art Gallery of NSW.

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Andrew Frost

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