Eugène Atget

(FRENCH, 1857 – 1927)

The work of Eugène Atget is one of the richest pictorial embodiments of French culture. Working as a photographer mainly in and near Paris from the late 1890s until his death in 1927, Atget made a total of about 10,000 individual images. Over the course of his long career he discovered and progressively mastered photography’s capacity to transform plain fact into visual poetry. In the rapid unfolding of modernist photography in the late 1920s and early 1930s, Atget’s work soon became the exemplar of the medium’s new creative power. No major photographer in the half-century following his death was untouched by Atget’s influence. At his death in 1927, the French government purchased a portion of Atget’s negatives; the remaining contents of his studio and greater body of his work were purchased by photographer Berenice Abbott and art dealer Julian Levy. Carefully looked after by Abbott, the collection was later sold to the Museum of Modern Art.