Archive for the 'Eugene Atget' Category

02
Jan
14

Exhibition: ‘Charles Marville: Photographer of Paris’ at the National Gallery of Art, Washington

Exhibition dates: 29th September 2013 – 5th January 2014

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The French photographer Charles Marville (1813-1879) is rapidly becoming a favourite of mine. In fact, I have just ordered Charles Marville: Photographer of Paris by Sarah Kennel from Amazon – a book that comes highly recommended – and I am eagerly awaiting its arrival.

Charles Marville “is primarily known for documenting the transformation of Paris from a medieval city to a modern one, through a series of images of old neighborhoods lost due to urban renewal… Marville’s earliest works were salted paper prints made from paper negatives – soft, high-contrast images not far removed in feeling from the pioneering, somewhat primitive photographs of William Henry Fox Talbot. As photographic technology advanced, Marville shifted to glass negatives that allowed far more visual precision, particularly in the architectural and streetscape images that compose the largest portion of the National Gallery of Art’s retrospective. By the late 1870s, shortly before his death, Marville’s compositions began to presage the more modernist approaches Alfred Stieglitz would pursue just a few years later. (At one point, Marville even experimented with abstracted cloud images, decades before Stieglitz’s famous “equivalents.”) (Text by Louis Jacobson. “Reviewed: Charles Marbille at the National Gallery of Art,” on the Washington City Newspaper blog, posted 22nd October 2013)

Marville can be seen as the precursor to Eugène Atget (1857-1927). Atget would have been in his twenties when Marville was in the last few years of his life. It is interesting to speculate whether the two ever met? (and if they did what they would have talked about!) Atget would have been aware of the older photographers’ work, work that has been criticised for its lack of social consciousness and artistic feeling.

“Comparing Atget’s work with that of his best-known predecessor, Charles Marville (1816-1879), demonstrates another of Atget’s artistic contributions. Marville had been commissioned to make a comprehensive documentation of the vast districts of old housing that were to be demolished as part of Napoleon III’s plan to transform Paris into a modern capital. Marville’s photographs do not linger over any particular building, warm to its charm or embrace its artistic qualities. Instead (perhaps because these buildings were slated for destruction anyway), Marville chose a position from which he could see straight to the end of even the most narrow, winding street, enabling him to photograph the maximum number of structures with one shot.” (Text by Gerald M. Panter. “Atget in Historical Perspective”)

This is to denigrate the work of Marville. His photographs possess more subtly than Atget’s and they sing a different song. To me, Marville’s photographs are like a Bach fugue while Atget’s photographs are a Mozart sonata. Both have different resonances, no less valuable one from the other. It is as if Atget looked at the work of Marville and thought: how can I do this my way, in my own voice – and he then proceeded to “turn up the volume” – by changing the angle and perspective of the camera, by moving horse and cart into more prominent positions, by focusing on details and ghosts. But Marville is no less a master than Atget. You only have to look at the photographs to realise what great sensitivity to subject matter he possessed, what a unique voice this artist had.

Look at the amazing construction of the picture plane in numerous images in this posting. The wall that blocks the way in Impasse de l’Essai from the Horse Market (c. 1868, below) and the pictures elegiac atmosphere, tensioned by the post mimicking the tree at the left hand side and the threatening, dark, brooding forms of both trees overhanging the rooftops of the houses. The three photographs The Bièvre River (fifth arrondissement) (2 images) and Banks of the Bièvre River at the Bottom of the rue des Gobelins (all 1862, below) where the artist leads the eye of the viewer into the image using water, then partially blocks the line of sight into the distance by barrels and posts, shadows and reflections, at the same time limiting the sky to a small section so that the viewer’s eyes have some escape route out of the image. The last image Bièvre River at the Bottom of the rue des Gobelins is almost Cezanne-like in it’s flattening and fracturing of the image plane into modernist shapes. Atget could never have taken photographs like these. They are true masterpieces.

The last five images of city streets in the posting are also illuminating. While they are more frontal than many of Atget’s street photographs, with a longer vista and vanishing point, there is something about them that adds an indelible serenity to the scene. Maybe it’s the foreshortened walls lingering into the distance, the carts, the light, the shadows. Look at the very last photograph, Impasse de la Bouteille (de la rue Montorgeuil) (1865-1868, below) and notice the wonderful two vanishing points and the immense darkness of the intervening wall as it pushes its way into the image, the blackness of this intervention. Incredible.

As John Szarkowski has observed, “In the wet-plate days of Atget’s great predecessor Charles Marville photographed the streets of Old Paris, street by street. In those old streets that still existed a generation later, Atget repeated the work building by building, sometimes door by door, sometimes door knocker by door knocker. He reworked the ore with a finer screen, and sifted out a different precious metal.” (John Szarkowski. Eugène Atget. Museum of Modern Art, 2000, p.15)

Both Marville and Atget are precious metals. For that we are eternally grateful.

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Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Many thankx to the National Gallery of Art, Washington for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Charles Marville. 'Gardens of the Bagatelle under Construction' 1858-1862

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Charles Marville
Gardens of the Bagatelle under Construction
1858-1862
Albumenized salted paper print from collodion negative
Image: 26 x 36 cm (10 1/4 x 14 3/16 in.)
Paula and Robert Hershkowitz

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Charles Marville. 'Marché aux chevaux (Horse Market) (fifth arrondissement)' c. 1867

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Charles Marville
Marché aux chevaux (Horse Market) (fifth arrondissement)
c. 1867
Albumen print from collodion negative
Image: 26.2 x 36.8 cm (10 5/16 x 14 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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Charles Marville. 'Avenue du Commandeur (de la rue d'Alésia) (fourteenth arrondissement)' 1877-1878

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Charles Marville
Avenue du Commandeur (de la rue d’Alésia) (fourteenth arrondissement)
1877-1878
Albumen print from collodion negative
Image: 23 x 36.1 cm (9 1/16 x 14 3/16 in.)
Musée Carnavalet, Paris
© Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet

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3209-124-WEB

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Charles Marville
Impasse de l’Essai (du marché aux chevaux) (Impasse de l’Essai from the Horse Market) (fifth arrondissement)
c. 1868
Albumen print from collodion negative
Image: 24.5 x 36.5 cm (9 5/8 x 14 3/8 in.)
Ville de Paris – Bibliothèque de l’Hôtel de Ville (BHdV)

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Charles Marville. 'Interior of Les Halles Centrales' 1874

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Charles Marville
Interior of Les Halles Centrales
1874
Albumen print from collodion negative
Image: 31.8 x 39.2 cm (12 1/2 x 15 7/16 in.)
The AIA/AAF Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington D.C.

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Charles Marville. 'The Bièvre River (fifth arrondissement)' c. 1862

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Charles Marville
The Bièvre River (fifth arrondissement)
c. 1862
Albumen print from collodion negative
Image: 26.67 x 37.47 cm (10 1/2 x 14 3/4 in.)
Joy of Giving Something, Inc.

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Charles Marville. 'The Bièvre River (fifth arrondissement)' c. 1862

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Charles Marville
The Bièvre River (fifth arrondissement)
c. 1862
Albumen print from a collodion negative
Image: 27.8 x 37.6 cm (10 15/16 x 14 13/16 in.)
Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Fund, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 1988
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Charles Marville. 'Bords de la Bièvre (au bas de la rue des Gobelins) (Banks of the Bièvre River at the Bottom of the rue des Gobelins) (fifth arrondissement)' c. 1862

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Charles Marville
Bords de la Bièvre (au bas de la rue des Gobelins) (Banks of the Bièvre River at the Bottom of the rue des Gobelins) (fifth arrondissement)
c. 1862
Albumen print from collodion negative
Image: 27.5 x 36.8 cm (10 13/16 x 14 1/2 in.)
Musée Carnavalet, Paris
© Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet

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Charles Marville. 'Percement de l'avenue de l'Opéra (Construction of the avenue de l'Opéra)' December 1876

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Charles Marville
Percement de l’avenue de l’Opéra (Construction of the avenue de l’Opéra)
December 1876
Albumen print from collodion negative
Image: 25.9 x 36.4 cm (10 3/16 x 14 5/16 in.)
Musée Carnavalet, Paris
© Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet

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Charles Marville. 'Haut de la rue Champlain (vue prise à droit) (Top of the rue Champlain) (View to the Right) (twentieth arrondissement)' 1877-1878

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Charles Marville
Haut de la rue Champlain (vue prise à droit) (Top of the rue Champlain) (View to the Right) (twentieth arrondissement)
1877-1878
Albumen print from collodion negative
Image: 26 x 36.6 cm (10 1/4 x 14 7/16 in.)
Musée Carnavalet, Paris
© Charles Marville / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet

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Charles Marville. 'Urinoir (système Jennings) plateau de l'Ambigu (Urinal, Jennings System, plateau de l'Ambigu)' 1876

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Charles Marville
Urinoir (système Jennings) plateau de l’Ambigu (Urinal, Jennings System, plateau de l’Ambigu)
1876
Albumen print from collodion negative
Image: 26.7 X 36.4 cm (10 1/2 X 14 5/16 in.)
Musée Carnavalet, Paris
© Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet

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Charles Marville. 'Treasury of Reims Cathedral' 1854

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Charles Marville
Treasury of Reims Cathedral
1854
Salted paper print from paper negative
23.1 x 34.5 cm (9 1/8 x 13 9/16 in.)
Private Collection

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Charles Marville. 'Sky Study, Paris' 1856-1857

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Charles Marville
Sky Study, Paris
1856-1857
Albumen print from collodion negative
Image: 16.7 x 20.6 cm (6 9/16 x 8 1/8 in.)
Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Fund, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 1987
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Charles Marville. 'Cloud Study, Paris' 1856-1857

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Charles Marville
Cloud Study, Paris
1856-1857
Albumen print from collodion negative
Image: 15.4 x 25.7 cm (6 1/16 x 10 1/8 in.)
Sheet: 31 x 43.4 cm (12 3/16 x 17 1/16 in.)
Wilson Centre for Photography, London

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“The first exhibition in the United States and the very first scholarly catalogue on the accomplished 19th-century French photographer Charles Marville will explore the beauty, variety, and historical poignancy of Marville’s art. On view at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, from September 29, 2013, through January 5, 2014, Charles Marville: Photographer of Paris will include 99 photographs and three albums that represent the artist’s entire career, from his exquisite city scenes and landscape studies made across Europe in the early 1850s to his compelling photographs of Paris both before and after many of its medieval streets were razed to make way for the broad boulevards, parks, and monumental buildings we have come to associate with the City of Light. The accompanying exhibition catalogue will present recently discovered, groundbreaking scholarship informing Marville’s art and his biography.

“Although his photographs of Paris on the brink of modernity are widely hailed as among the most accomplished ever made of that city, Marville himself has long remained an enigma to art historians,” said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art. “We are thrilled to present this new look at the art and life of Marville and are deeply grateful to lenders, both public and private, for making this landmark show possible.”

Forty-one of the 102 works presented in the exhibition are on loan from the Musée Carnavalet, Paris.  Conservation and preparation of the loans from the Musée Carnavalet has been undertaken by the Atelier de Restauration et de Conservation des Photographies de la Ville de Paris (ARCP).

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Recent Discoveries

Marville has long remained a mystery partly because documents that would shed light on his biography were thought to have disappeared in a fire that consumed Paris’ city hall in 1871. The whereabouts of other documentation was simply unknown. However, new research has helped curator Sarah Kennel and exhibition researcher Daniel Catan reconstruct Marville’s personal and professional biography.

The son of a tailor and laundress, Charles-François Bossu was born in Paris 1813. In a double act of self-invention, he jettisoned his given name (bossu means hunchback in French) around 1832, at the moment he became an artist. He embarked upon a career as an illustrator in the early 1830s but turned to the young discipline of photography in 1850. Although he continued to be known as Marville until his death in 1879, he never formally changed his name, which is the reason many of the legal documents pertaining to his life have gone unnoticed for decades. The exhibition catalogue establishes Marville’s biography, including his parentage and his relationship with a lifelong companion, and uncovers many significant details that illuminate the evolution and circumstances of his career.

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The Exhibition and Artist’s Background

A talented and prolific artist lauded for his rigorously composed, beautifully detailed prints, Marville was commissioned in the early 1860s to record the city of Paris in transition. He soon became known as the official photographer of Paris and produced one of the earliest photographic series documenting urbanization. He continues to be recognized as one of the most accomplished photographers in the history of the medium.

Charles Marville: Photographer of Paris offers an overview of the artist’s photographic career, beginning with a compelling series of intimate self-portraits and portraits of friends and colleagues that provide a fascinating window into Marville’s personal life and professional ties, and serve as an introduction to the exhibition. Starting in 1850, Marville traveled throughout France and Germany, using the paper negative process with great skill to create beautiful landscapes, cityscapes, studies of sculpture, and striking architectural photographs. Many of these works were included in albums produced by the pioneering publisher Louis-Désiré Blanquart-Evrard. The quantity and quality of the photographs used by the publisher serve as both a testament to Marville’s skill and an indication that his training as an illustrator prepared him exceptionally well for this new pictorial enterprise of photographic documentation.

In the mid-1850s, Marville adopted the collodion negative process and undertook a series of sky and cloud studies, made from the rooftop of his Parisian studio. More rapid and sensitive than the paper negative process, the collodion negative process enabled the photographer to capture delicate, luminous cloud formations on the city’s horizon and made him one of the first artists successfully to photograph clouds. At the same time, Marville expanded his practice by honing in on two lucrative areas: reproductions of works of art and architectural photographs. He excelled at both and assumed the title and related privileges of photographer to the Louvre while he also documented building and renovation projects in Paris and the provinces for prominent French architects, including Eugène Viollet-le-Duc.

In 1858, Marville was commissioned by the city of Paris to photograph the newly refurbished Bois de Boulogne, a royal park on the edge of Paris that had been transformed under the emperor Napoleon III into a site of bourgeois leisure and pleasure. Arguably his first important body of work that was conceived and executed as a systematic series, the Bois de Boulogne series would influence his best-known work, the Old Paris photographs. Commissioned by Paris’ agency on historic works (under the aegis of urban planner Georges-Eugène Baron Haussmann) in the early 1860s, Marville made more than 425 photographs of the narrow streets and crumbling buildings of the premodern city at the very moment they were threatened by demolition. Known as the Old Paris album, the photographs are captivating for their seamless integration of artistic sensibility and intense devotion to maximum visual clarity. In many cases they serve as the only visual record of sites that have long since vanished.

The exhibition closes with an exploration of the emergence of modern Paris through Marville’s photographs. Even before completing the Old Paris series, Marville began to photograph the city that was coming into being, from massive construction projects, renovated churches, and broad boulevards to a host of modern conveniences, such as the elegant new gas lamps and the poetically named vespasiennes (public urinals) that cemented Paris’ reputation in the 1860s as the most modern city in the world. Marville also explored the city’s edges, where desolate stretches of half-finished construction suggest the physical displacements and psychic costs of modernization. Sharp-edged, beautifully detailed, and brilliantly composed, Marville’s photographs of the French capital as at once glamorous and alienating do not simply document change but in their very form shape the visual rhetoric of modern Paris.”

Press release from the National Gallery of Art website

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Charles Marville. 'South Portal, Chartres Cathedral' 1854

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Charles Marville
South Portal, Chartres Cathedral
1854
Salted paper print from paper negative
Image: 21.5 x 15.5 cm (8 7/16 x 6 1/8 in.)
Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Jennifer and Joseph Duke Gift and The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Fund, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2000
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Charles Marville. 'Cathédrale de Chartres, Grandes Figures des pilastres du portail septentrional' (Chartres Cathedral, Columnar Figures, Northern Portal) 1854

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Charles Marville
Cathédrale de Chartres, Grandes Figures des pilastres du portail septentrional (Chartres Cathedral, Columnar Figures, Northern Portal)
1854
Salted paper print from paper negative
Image: 36 x 25.6 cm (14 3/16 x 10 1/16 in.)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Gift of Paul F. Walter

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Charles Marville. 'Charles Delahaye' 1855-1856

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Charles Marville
Charles Delahaye
1855-1856
Salted paper print from paper (or glass?) negative
Image: 21.6 × 15.9 cm (8 1/2 × 6 1/4 in.)
Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, W. Bruce and Delaney H. Lundberg and Christian Keesee Charitable Trust Gifts, 2011
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Charles Marville. 'Self-Portrait at a Window, February 20, 1851' 1851

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Charles Marville
Self-Portrait at a Window, February 20, 1851
1851
salted paper print from paper negative
image: 14.29 x 11.4 cm (5 5/8 x 4 1/2 in.)
support: 32.2 x 24.5 cm (12 11/16 x 9 5/8 in.)
mat: 53 x 40.5 cm (20 7/8 x 15 15/16 in.)
Musée d’Orsay, Paris

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Charles Marville. 'Self-Portrait' 1861

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Charles Marville
Self-Portrait
1861
Albumen print from collodion negative
Image: 23.5 x 18.3 cm (9 1/4 x 7 3/16 in.)
Collection Debuisson

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Charles Marville. 'Rue de la Bûcherie, from the cul de sac Saint-Ambroise (fifth arrondissement)' 1866-1868

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Charles Marville
Rue de la Bûcherie, from the cul de sac Saint-Ambroise (fifth arrondissement)
1866-1868
Albumen print from collodion negative
Image: 32 x 27.1 cm (12 5/8 x 10 11/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation through Robert and Joyce Menschel

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Charles Marville. 'Rue Saint-Jacques (fifth arrondissement)' 1865-1866

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Charles Marville
Rue Saint-Jacques (fifth arrondissement)
1865-1866
Albumen print from collodion negative
Image: 30.8 x 27 cm (12 1/8 x 10 5/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation through Robert and Joyce Menschel

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Charles Marville. 'Cour Saint-Guillaume (ninth arrondissement)' 1866-1867

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Charles Marville
Cour Saint-Guillaume (ninth arrondissement)
1866-1867
Albumen print from collodion negative
Image: 34.2 x 27.2 cm (13 7/16 x 10 11/16 in.)
Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilman Collection, Purchase, Alfred Stieglitz Society Gifts, 2005

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Charles Marville. 'Passage Saint-Guillaume (vers la rue Richelieu) (first arrondissement)' 1863-1865

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Charles Marville
Passage Saint-Guillaume (vers la rue Richelieu) (first arrondissement)
1863-1865
Albumen print from collodion negative
Image: 31.91 x 27.62 cm (12 9/16 x 10 7/8 in.)
Joy of Giving Something, Inc.

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Charles Marville. 'Rue Ollivier (vers la rue Saint-Georges) (ninth arrondissement)' c. 1868

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Charles Marville
Rue Ollivier (vers la rue Saint-Georges) (ninth arrondissement)
c. 1868
Albumen print from collodion negative
Image: 28.6 x 27.6 cm (11 1/4 x 10 7/8 in.)
Joy of Giving Something, Inc.

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Charles Marville. 'Impasse de la Bouteille (de la rue Montorgeuil) (second arrondissement)' 1865-1868

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Charles Marville
Impasse de la Bouteille (de la rue Montorgeuil) (second arrondissement)
1865-1868
Albumen print from collodion negative
Image: 35.9 x 27.7 cm (14 1/8 x 10 7/8 in.)
Musée Carnavalet, Paris
© Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet

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National Gallery of Art
National Mall between 3rd and 7th Streets
Constitution Avenue NW, Washington

Opening hours:
Monday – Saturday 1000 am – 5.00 pm
Sunday 11.00 am – 6.00 pm

National Gallery of Art website

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07
Nov
13

Exhibition: ‘Lee Friedlander – America by Car’ at Foam, Amsterdam

Exhibition dates: 13th September – 11th December 2013

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“I’m not trying to do something to you, I’m trying to do something with you.”

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American pianist and composer Keith Jarrett at a concert in Melbourne, 1970s

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LEE FRIEDLANDER IS ONE OF THE GREATEST PHOTOGRAPHERS THAT HAS EVER LIVED.

The vision of this man is incredible. His complex, classical photographs in such books as Letters from the People (1993), Flowers and Trees (1981), The American Monument (1976) and America by Car (2010) have redefined the (photographic) landscape. The artist is constantly reinventing himself, reinventing pictorial space – cutting, distorting, reflecting it back onto itself – to create layered images (after Eugène Atget and Walker Evans). These self-reflective spaces are as much about the artist and his nature as they are about the world in which he lives. They have become the basis of Friedlander’s visual language. Here is a love of the medium and of the world that is a reflection of Self.

I don’t see these cars (or photographs) as illusion factories. For me, this series of work is akin to a tri-view self-portrait. Instead of the artist painting the sitter (as in the triple portrait of Cardinal Richelieu, 1627 below), a vision, an energy of Self emanates outwards from behind the bulwark of the car steering wheel and dash. It is a Self and its relationship to the world split into multifaceted angles and views. He looks out the left window, the front window, the side window – and then he splits his views between side and front windows using the A pillar of the car as a dividing, framing tool. Sometimes he throws in the reflections of him/self with camera in the rear view mirror for good measure. There is wit, humour and irony in these photographs. There is cinematic panorama and moments of intimacy. There is greatness in these images.

Friedlander is not trying to do something to you, but something with you, for he is showing you something that you inherently know but may not be aware of. Like a Zen master, he asks you questions but also shows you the way. If you understand the path of life and the energy of the cosmos, you understand what a journey this is.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Many thankx to Foam for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Philippe de Champaigne (1602-1674) 'Triple portrait of Cardinal Richelieu' 1642

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Philippe de Champaigne (1602-1674)
Triple portrait of Cardinal Richelieu
c. 1640
Oil on canvas
58 cm (22.8 in) x 72 cm (28.3 in)
The National Gallery, London
This reproduction is in the public domain

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Lee Friedlander. 'Bettina Katz, Cleveland, Ohio' 2009

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Lee Friedlander
Bettina Katz, Cleveland, Ohio
2009
From the series America by Car, 1995-2009
Gelatin silver print
15 × 15 in. (38.1 × 38.1 cm)
Collection of the artist; courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Lee Friedlander, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

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Lee Friedlander. 'Houston, Texas' 2006

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Lee Friedlander
Houston, Texas
2006
From the series America by Car, 1995-2009
Gelatin silver print
15 × 15 in. (38.1 × 38.1 cm)
Collection of the artist; courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Lee Friedlander, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

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Lee Friedlander. 'Denali National Park, Alaska' 2007

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Lee Friedlander
Denali National Park, Alaska
2007
From the series America by Car, 1995-2009
Gelatin silver print
15 × 15 in. (38.1 × 38.1 cm)
Collection of the artist; courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Lee Friedlander, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

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Lee Friedlander. 'Nebraska' 1999

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Lee Friedlander
Nebraska
1999
From the series America by Car, 1995-2009
Gelatin silver print
15 × 15 in. (38.1 × 38.1 cm)
Collection of the artist; courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Lee Friedlander, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

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“The automobile has come to symbolise the American dream and the associated urge for freedom. It is therefore no surprise that cars play a central role in the series America by Car and The New Cars 1964 by renowned American photographer Lee Friedlander (1934, US), now receiving their first showing in the Netherlands.

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Road Trip

America by Car documents Friedlander’s countless wanderings around the United States over the past decade. In this he follows a trail laid down by numerous photographers, film makers and writers like Robert Frank, Stephen Shore and Jack Kerouac. Friedlander nevertheless succeeds in giving the theme of the American road trip his own very original twist, using the cars’ windscreens and dashboards to frame the familiar American landscape, as well as exploiting the reflections found in their wing and rear view mirrors. It is a simple starting point which results in complex and layered images that are typical for Friedlander’s visual language. He also has a sharp eye for the ironic detail. He makes free use of text on billboards and symbols on store signs to add further meaning to his work. His images are so layered that new information continues to surface with every glance, making America by Car a unique evocation of contemporary America.

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Car portraits

The New Cars 1964 is a much older series. Friedlander had been commissioned by Harper’s Bazaar to photograph all the new models of automobile introduced in 1964. Rather than placing them centrally and showing them to best advantage, Friedlander decided to set the cars in the most banal of locations, in front of a furniture store or in a scrap yard for instance. Exploiting reflections, available light and unusual perspectives, his cars are almost completely absorbed into the street scene. Although they were rejected at the time by the magazine’s editorial board on the grounds that the images were not attractive enough, the pictures were put away in a drawer and since forgotten. Friedlander however recently rediscovered this series. The New Cars 1964 has since become a special historical and social document and has in its own right become part of Friedlander’s impressive oeuvre.

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Fifty-year career

Lee Friedlander was born in the US in 1934. In a career extending across 5 decades Friedlander has maintained an obsessive focus on the portrayal of the American social landscape. His breakthrough in the eyes of the wider public came with the New Documents exhibition at the MoMA in 1967, where his work was presented alongside that of Diane Arbus and Garry Winogrand. Friedlander accumulated numerous awards during his career, including the MacArthur Foundation Award and three Guggenheim Fellowships. He also published more than twenty books. His work has been shown at many venues around the world, including the Whitney Museum of American Art and the MoMA in New York, San Francisco’s SFMOMA, the MAMM in Moscow and the National Museum of Photography in Copenhagen.”

Press release from the FOAM website

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Lee Friedlander. 'Cleveland, Ohio' 2009

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Lee Friedlander
Cleveland, Ohio
2009
From the series America by Car, 1995-2009
Gelatin silver print
15 × 15 in. (38.1 × 38.1 cm)
Collection of the artist; courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Lee Friedlander, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

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Lee Friedlander. 'Montana' 2008

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Lee Friedlander
Montana
2008
From the series America by Car, 1995-2009
Gelatin silver print
15 × 15 in. (38.1 × 38.1 cm)
Collection of the artist; courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Lee Friedlander, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

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Lee Friedlander. 'Montana' 2008

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Lee Friedlander
Montana
2008
From the series America by Car, 1995-2009
Gelatin silver print
15 × 15 in. (38.1 × 38.1 cm)
Collection of the artist; courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Lee Friedlander, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

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“Mr. Friedlander took his black-and-white, square-format photographs entirely from the interior of standard rental cars – late-model Toyotas and Chevys, by the looks of them – on various road trips over the past 15 years. In these pictures our vast, diverse country is buffered by molded plastic dashboards and miniaturized in side-view mirrors…

Mr. Friedlander groups images by subject, not geography: monuments, churches, houses, factories, ice cream shops, plastic Santas, roadside memorials.

So “America by Car,”… is more of an exercise in typology, along the lines of Ed Ruscha’s “Twentysix Gasoline Stations.” But there’s nothing deadpan or straightforward about the way Mr. Friedlander composes his pictures. He knows that cars are essentially illusion factories – to wit: “Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.”

Some of the illusions on view here exploit the technology of the camera Mr. Friedlander has been using since the 1990s, the square-format Hasselblad Superwide (so named for its extra-wide-angle lens). The Superwide produces crisp and detail-packed images that are slightly exaggerated in perspective, giving the foreground – the car – a heightened immediacy…

Some of the photographs are dizzyingly complex, like one taken in Pennsylvania in 2007. The camera looks out through the passenger-side window, at a man whose feet appear to be perched on the door frame. He is standing in front of a trompe l’oeil mural of a train, which seems to be heading right at the car. In the side-view mirror you can see a woman approaching. It’s a bizarre pileup of early cinematic trickery (as in the Lumière Brothers), amateur photography and surveillance technology.

Mr. Friedlander’s love of such layering can be traced to Walker Evans and Eugène Atget. He also shares, in this series, Evans’s wry eye for signs of all kinds: the matter-of-fact “Bar” advertising a Montana watering hole, or the slightly more cryptic “ME RY RISTMAS” outside a service station in Texas [see image below]. He strikes semiotic gold at Mop’s Reaching the Hurting Ministry in Mississippi: “LIVE IN RELATIONSHIP ARE LIKE RENTAL CARS NO COMMITMENT.”

Cars distance people from one another, this series reminds us over and over. When Mr. Friedlander photographs people he knows – the photographer Richard Benson, or the legendary MoMA curator John Szarkowski (to whom the book is dedicated) – he remains in his seat, shooting through an open window. In just a few instances the subjects poke their heads inside, a gesture that seems transgressive in its intimacy…

Did he ever get out of the vehicle? Just once in this series, for a self-portrait. It’s the last picture, and it shows him leaning into the driver’s-side window, elbow propped on the door, left hand reaching for the steering wheel.

Maybe he was thinking of the last image in “The Americans” - a shot of Mr. Frank’s used Ford taken from the roadside, showing his wife and son huddled in the back seat. In Mr. Frank’s photograph the car is a protective cocoon. Mr. Friedlander seems to see it that way too, but from the inside out.”

Excerpts of an excellent review of “America by Car” by Karen Rosenberg published on The New York Times website on September 2, 2010.

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Lee Friedlander. 'Alaska' 2007

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Lee Friedlander
Alaska
2007
From the series America by Car, 1995-2009
Gelatin silver print
15 × 15 in. (38.1 × 38.1 cm)
Collection of the artist; courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Lee Friedlander, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

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Lee Friedlander. 'Montana' 2008

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Lee Friedlander
Montana
2008
From the series America by Car, 1995-2009
Gelatin silver print
15 × 15 in. (38.1 × 38.1 cm)
Collection of the artist; courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Lee Friedlander, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

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Lee Friedlander. 'California' 2008

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Lee Friedlander
California
2008
From the series America by Car, 1995-2009
Gelatin silver print
15 × 15 in. (38.1 × 38.1 cm)
Collection of the artist; courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Lee Friedlander, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

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Lee Friedlander. 'Texas' 2006

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Lee Friedlander
Texas
2006
From the series America by Car, 1995-2009
Gelatin silver print
15 × 15 in. (38.1 × 38.1 cm)
Collection of the artist; courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Lee Friedlander, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

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Foam
Keizersgracht 609
1017 DS Amsterdam
The Netherlands
T: + 31 20 5516500

Opening hours:
Daily from 10 am – 6 pm
Thu/Fri 10 am – 9 pm

Foam website

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12
Sep
13

Exhibition: ‘French Twist: Masterworks of Photography from Atget to Man Ray’ at the Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington, DE

Exhibition dates: 29th June – 15th September 2013

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C’est Magnifique!

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Many thankx to the Delaware Art Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Ilse Bing (1899-1998) 'Cancan Dancers' Moulin Rouge 1931

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Ilse Bing (1899-1998)
Cancan Dancers

Moulin Rouge 1931
Gelatin silver print
6 1/4 × 9 in. (15.9 × 22.9 cm)
Collection of Michael Mattis and Judith Hochberg
© Estate of Ilse Bing. Courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

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7_bing_eiffel_tower-WEB

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Ilse Bing (1899-1998)
Champ-de-Mars from the Eiffel Tower
1931
7 1/2 x 11 inches
Collection of Michael Mattis and Judith Hochberg
© Estate of Ilse Bing, Courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

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Ilse Bing (1899-1998) 'Boarding House for Young Women, Tours' 1935

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Ilse Bing (1899-1998)
Boarding House for Young Women, Tours
1935
Gelatin silver print
11 1/8 × 7 1/2 in. (28.3 × 19.1 cm)
Collection of Michael Mattis and Judith Hochberg
© Estate of Ilse Bing. Courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

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Brassaï (1899-1984) 'Lovers, Bal Musette des Quatre Saisons, rue de Lappe' c. 1932

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Brassaï (1899-1984)
Lovers, Bal Musette des Quatre Saisons, rue de Lappe
c. 1932
9 3/8 x 7 inches
Collection of Michael Mattis and Judith Hochberg
© The Brassaï Estate-RMN

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“In the early 20th century, between the two world wars, Paris saw a fervor of change. From 1910 to 1940, the city became a creative epicenter for artistic exploration, attracting international avant-garde artists – including photographers experimenting with Surrealism, Modernism, and the new reportage. French Twist: Masterworks of Photography from Atget to Man Ray, on view at the Delaware Art Museum from June 29, 2013 through September 15, 2013, features 100 vintage prints from this golden age of French photography and explores the variety and inventiveness of native and immigrant photographers working in France in the early 20th century.

This exhibition presents a number of themes that capture the flavor and nightlife of Paris at this exciting moment. “Life of the Streets,” “Diversions,” and “Paris by Night” are just some of the topics that these masterful photographs explore. Visitors will experience Eugène Atget’s lyrical views of Paris streets and gardens, Man Ray’s surrealist experiments, and Henri Cartier-Bresson’s pioneering photojournalism, as well as works by Ilse Bing, Brassaï, Jacques-Henri Lartigue, André Kertész, and Dora Maar. Many of these artists settled in France for life, while others, fleeing the Nazis, brought their Paris‐trained sensibilities and influences to America.

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Eugène Atget 

The exhibition opens with one of the most significant figures in the history of photography, Eugène Atget, whose work influenced a range of artists from Surrealists to documentary photographers. This selection encompasses pictures of city streets, architectural details, and the gardens at Versailles and includes one of his most famous photographs, Boulevard de Strasbourg, Corsets (1912).

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La vie de la rue (Life of the Street) 

This section includes images of the streets and buildings of Paris – of the bustling Champ-de-Mars and the deserted Avenue du Maine – and features a large selection of photographs by Ilse Bing. In her modernist views of urban architecture, Bing provides a modern take on the old city through unexpected angles and dramatic cropping.

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Divertissement (Diversions) 

Divertissement focuses on the myriad amusements available in the City of Lights. Lartigue provides an insider’s view of upper-class life in the Belle Epoque, while Bing and Brassaï chronicle the attractions of the dance hall, the theater, and the street.

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Henri Cartier-Bresson 

The master of the “decisive moment” and one of the most significant photojournalists of the 20th century, Henri Cartier-Bresson is featured along with 17 famous photographs from his travels around the world. This section includes his stellar images of the Spanish Second Republic and his iconic view of the coronation of George VI in London.

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Les basses classes (The Lower Classes) 

Between the wars, photographers from Ilse Bing to Andre Kertész to Brassaï chronicled lives of poor Parisians, often bringing a Modernist sensibility, rather than a reformer’s eye, to scenes of urban poverty.

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Paris de nuit (Paris by Night) 

In 1933 Brassaï released his photo book Paris by Night, which chronicled the city’s streets and amusements after dark. The book became an immediate success and Brassaï became famous as the foremost photographer of the city’s bars and brothels, performers, and prostitutes.

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L’art pour l’art (Art for Art’s Sake) 

This section focuses on the technical experimentation and virtuoso technique of photographers including Pierre Dubreuil, Edward Steichen, and Pal Funk Angelo. It features examples of unusual techniques like cliché-verre, solarization, and oil printing.

Cliché verre is a combination of art and photography. In brief, it is a method of either etching, painting or drawing on a transparent surface, such as glass, thin paper or film and printing the resulting image on a light sensitive paper in a photographic darkroom. It is a process first practiced by a number of French painters during the early 19th century. The French landscape painter Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot was the best known of these. Some contemporary artists have developed techniques for achieving a variety of line, tone, texture and color by experimenting with film, frosted Mylar, paint and inks and a wide assortment of tools for painting, etching, scratching, rubbing and daubing.

Cliché verre is French. Cliché is a printing term: a printing plate cast from movable type; while verre means glass. (Text from Wikipedia)

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Andre Kertész, Dora Maar, Man Ray 

These three important photographers – all immigrants to Paris between the Wars and all involved in Surrealist movement – are featured in individual sections that highlight their most famous works. Kertész is represented by his photographs of the painter Piet Mondrian’s studio. Maar’s Surrealist street photographs capture her dark humor, and a full complement of Man Ray’s experimental and psychologically charged images summarize his photographic interests.

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La figure (Portraits and Nudes) 

La Figure showcases experimental approaches to the classic subject of the female nude, including a cameraless photograph and a solarization by Man Ray and a distortion created with fun-house-type mirrors by Kertész.

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Ilse Bing (1899-1998), nicknamed the “Queen of the Leica” after her camera of choice, moved to Paris in 1930 and immersed herself in its cultural milieu, interacting with painters like Pavel Tchelitchev and fashionistas Elsa Schiaparelli and Carmel Snow. The decade she spent in France is considered the high point of her artistic career.

Dora Maar (1907-1997) created startlingly imaginative Surrealist photographs under the tutelage of Man Ray. However, she is best known as Picasso’s lover, muse, and “Weeping Woman” from 1936 to 1943. Her photographs documenting Picasso’s creation of Guernica hang alongside the painting in the Reina Sofía museum in Madrid.

JacquesHenri Lartigue (1894-1986), considered by many to be a child prodigy, received his first camera as a gift when he was six years old and immediately set to work documenting the activities of his energetic family and circle of friends. Lartigue’s light‐hearted snapshots capture the essence of France’s Belle Époque, the halcyon period before World War I when it seemed that modernity would bring nothing but progress and delight.

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Eugène Atget (1857-1957)
Boulevard de Strasbourg Corsets
1912
Printing-out paper
8 3/4 x 7 inches
Collection of Michael Mattis and Judith Hochberg

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Eugène Atget (1857-1927) 'Rue Egynard' 1901

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Eugène Atget (1857-1927)
Rue Egynard
1901
Albumen print
8 1/4 × 7 in. (21 × 17.8 cm)
Collection of Michael Mattis and Judith Hochberg

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Man Ray (1890-1976) 'Solarized nude' 1930

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Man Ray (1890-1976)
Solarized nude
1930
11 5/8 x 8 7/8 inches
Collection of Michael Mattis and Judith Hochberg
© 2013 Man Ray Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY / ADAGP, Paris

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Edward Steichen (1879-1973) 'Three Pears and an Apple, Voulangis, France' 1921

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Edward Steichen (1879-1973)
Three Pears and an Apple, Voulangis, France
1921
Gelatin silver print
14 x 11 inches
Collection of Michael Mattis and Judith Hochberg

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Man Ray (1890-1976) 'Kiki de Montparnasse' 1923

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Man Ray (1890-1976)
Kiki de Montparnasse
1923
11 x 8 3/4 inches
Collection of Michael Mattis and Judith Hochberg
© 2013 Man Ray Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY / ADAGP, Paris

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Brassaï (1899-1984)
Fille de Montmartre playing Russian billiards, Blvd Rochechouart
1932-33
11 1/4 x 8 1/4 inches
Collection of Michael Mattis and Judith Hochberg
© The Brassaï Estate-RMN

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Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE 19806

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Saturday 10.00 am – 4.00 pm
Sunday noon – 4.00 pm

Delaware Art Museum website

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27
Oct
12

Exhibition: ‘Edouard Baldus and the Modern Landscape. Important Salt Prints of Paris from the 1850s’ at James Hyman Gallery, London

Exhibition dates: 12th October – 9th November 2012

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A beautiful, complimentary post to the last one on the exhibition Eugène Atget: Old Paris. It is interesting to compare the styles of the two photographers and the change in photography that takes place between the 1850s and the 1890s. Baldus’ photographs are eloquent in their grandeur and frontality, tonality and texture. Atget’s photographs on the other hand are slightly claustrophobic in their intensity, the camera obliquely placed to capture old buildings, narrow cobbled streets and distant vanishing points. Both, in their own way, are very modern photographers. Baldus’ legacy, as Dr James Hyman correctly notes, was his influence on his German compatriots such as the Bechers, Thomas Struth and, to a lesser extent, Andreas Gursky. His rigorous frontality (the photographing of the thing itself) gives his photographs the simplicity of diagrams and emphasises their topographical state, while their density of detail offers encyclopedic richness. This straightforward “objective” point of view was most notably used by Bernd and Hilla Becher in contemporary photography. Atget’s photographs, on the other hand, aroused an immediate interest “among the Surrealists because of the composition, ghosting, reflections, and its very mundanity.”

Conversely, it is the subjective signature of both artists that make their work truly great – not the mundanity, not the topographic objectivity but their intimate vision of this city, Paris. As I noted in an earlier posting on the Bechers,

“These are subjective images for all their objective desire. The paradox is the more a photographer strives for objectivity, the more ego drops away, the more the work becomes their own: subjective, beautiful, emotive… What makes great photographers, such as Eugène Atget, Walker Evans, August Sander and the Bechers, is the idiosyncratic “nature” of their vision: how Atget places his large view camera – at that particular height and angle to the subject – leaves an indelible feeling that only he could have made that image, to reveal the magic of that space in a photograph. It is their personal, unique thumbprint, recognisable in an instant.”

The same can be said of Baldus and these magnificent, ethereal photographs.

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Many thankx to James Hyman Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Edouard Baldus
Le Nouveau Louvre
c. 1857
Salt print mounted on card
31.6 x 44.3 cms (12.42 x 17.41 ins)
Le Nouveau Louvre series: 1855-7 Negative: Lower left inscribed in negative: no 107 Mount: Lower right beneath negative: stamped E. Baldus Lower left bottom: Le Nouveau Louvre
Dimensions Mount: 43.8 x 60.9 cms Image: 31.6 x 44.3 cms

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Mid-nineteenth century Paris was a city in the midst of modernisation, and as such, was ripe for documentation of its changing landscape. Counted as one of the premier photographers of his day, Edouard Baldus captured the aesthetic of the Second Empire’s ideology in his monumental views of both old and new Parisian landmarks. In 1855, Baldus received his largest commission, to document the construction of the Musee du Louvre. This rich salt print is a survey of the project as it nears almost full completion. Baldus produced over two thousand images of each part of the new Louvre, from large pavilions to small decorative statue. This photograph, however, takes a step back from the individual pieces of the lengthy project, and allows the viewer to appreciate the endeavour as a whole.

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Edouard Baldus
Vue generale de Paris pont neuf
c. 1855
Salt print mounted on card
33.6 x 43.9 cms (13.20 x 17.25 ins)
Negative: Lower left inscribed in negative: no 82 Mount: Lower right beneath negative: stamped E. Baldus Lower left bottom: Vue generales des Paris pont neuf
Dimensions Mount: 43.9 x 61 cms Image: 33.6 x 43.9 cms

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Edouard Baldus
Le Pantheon
1853
Salt print mounted on card
33.8 x 43.5 cms (13.28 x 17.10 ins)
Negative: Lower left inscribed in negative: Le Pantheon Lower right inscribed in negative: Baldus Mount: Lower right beneath negative: stamped E. Baldus Lower left bottom: Le Pantheon
Dimensions Mount: 44 x 60.8 cms Image: 33.8 x 43.5 cms

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Due to the strength of his architectural imagery and work with the Mission Heliographique, Baldus would go on to gain the support of a government commission, Les Villes de France Photographies, which focused on the landmarks of Paris in particular, such as the Pantheon. Similar in style to the frontal views of the Louvre pavilions, this image is a precursor to that project, and also includes Saint Etienne du Mont in its background. The Pantheon is one of Paris’ best-known landmarks, and was originally built as a church dedicated to Saint Genevieve. Looking out over the whole of the city, it is now a mausoleum that houses the remains of distinguished French citizens.

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Edouard Baldus
Arc de Caroussel
c. 1853
Salt print mounted on card
34.1 x 44.3 cms (13.40 x 17.41 ins)
Negative: Lower left inscribed in negative: signature of E.Baldus Lower right inscribed in negative: no.81 Mount: Lower right beneath negative: stamped E.Baldus Lower left bottom: Arc de Caroussel
Dimensions: Mount: 43.9 x 61 cms Image: 34.1 x 44.3 cms

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One of Baldus’ greatest projects was to provide a photographic inventory of the New Louvre and adjoing Tuilleries. A number of these works are of particular interest, expecially those of the Tuilleries Palace, which would be burnt down in 1870-1. All that remains today is the central triumphal arch, the Caroussel, which is depicted here, still with the palace visible in the background. Built between 1806 and 1808, the Arc de Caroussel is a monument commemorating Napolean’s military victories, with Peace riding a triumphal chariot atop the central archway. Two guards flank the sides of the arch, each atop their own horse, which not only provide for a sense of scale, but, being slightly blurred, also hint at the length of Baldus’ exposure. This enhances the effects of the delicately carved sculptures that adorn the archway, presented here with a clarity that defined the standard Baldus set with his architectural images.

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“James Hyman is proud to present a loan exhibition of one of the greatest photographers of the nineteenth century, Edouard Baldus. Remarkably, this is the first major exhibition of Edouard Baldus ever to be staged in London. Baldus was famed for his monumental photographs of the buildings of Paris at a time of massive transition under Napoleon III, Baron Haussman and Viollet Le Duc, as well as the depiction of the contemporary landscape of France. Acclaimed as the greatest architectural photographer of the nineteenth century, Baldus’s prints were some of the largest photographs in existence and pioneered an aesthetic of presenting modernity and the modern city that would have a profound influence on later photographers from the Bechers to John Davies.

Baldus was one of the great calotypists of the 1850s, producing works of an unprecedented range and scale. He moved to Paris in 1838 to study painting alongside other future photographers such as Le Gray, Le Secq, and Negre. He frequently retouched his paper negatives, adding pencil and ink, to add clouds or clarify details, then printing his own large-scale negatives. He was also adept at stitching several negatives together to re-create architectural views, most famously in his views of the cloisters of Saint Trophime.

Famed especially for his depiction of architecture, Baldus not only documented the modernisation of Paris but also travelled widely through France recording modernity and new construction – including new railways and aqueducts, as well as the building of the new Louvre. In 1851 the Commission des Monuments Historiques cited Baldus as one of the five best architectural photographers and he was commissioned to record the monuments of France for what became known as the Mission heliographic. His beginnings in photography are not well documented before his participation in the Mission heliographique, although it is known that he took photographs of Montmajour in 1849.

In 1852 he began Villes de France photographies to which the minister of Beaux-Arts subscribed until 1860. In 1854 he travelled with his student Petiot-Groffier in Auvergne and in 1855 the Baron James de Rothschild commissioned him to photograph the new Northern train line from Paris to Boulogne as a gift, in the form of a commemorative album, for Queen Victoria before her visit to the Exposition Universelle. Later, in his commission to document the reconstruction of the Louvre, Baldus took more than two thousand views in a period of three years. His last big commission was from 1861-1863 documenting the Paris-Lyon-Mediterranean train line illustrating seventy views of the train’s track. After this, Baldus tried to provide more commercial alternatives to his large-format works, creating smaller prints and heliogravures of his earlier work. Unfortunately, the effort was unsuccessful and Baldus passed away in bankruptcy and relative obscurity.”

Press release from the James Hyman website

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Edouard Baldus
Pavillon Colbert, Nouveau Louvre, Paris
c. 1855
Salt print mounted on card
43.2 x 34.1 cms (16.98 x 13.40 ins)
Stamped ‘E. Baldus’ on the lower right of the mount and titled lower left ‘Pavillon Colbert Nouveau Louvre’
Dimensions Mount: 61 x 43.9 cms Image: 43.2 x 34.1 cms

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Of the many photographs Baldus took of the Louvre during the period 1855-57, it is his large-format photographs of the main pavilions that best demonstrate the stretch of his artistic achievements. Commissioned by the French government once again, Baldus was charged with documenting every aspect of the new Palace’s construction, which was to be the Second Empire’s largest building project. Consequently, over the course of two years, it also evolved into the largest photographic commission to date, and Baldus took over two thousand photographs ranging in subject matter from individual statuary to the grand frontal views of each completed pavilion, such as this example of the Pavillon Colbert.

This particular photograph is an astounding example of the precision and clarity wet plate negatives afforded Baldus in capturing the texture of New Louvre’s stonework. Each part of the façade, from the temple relief statuary to the columns flanking the entryway, is bathed in a bright light that emphasises the three-dimensionality of the new pavilion. The sense of crisp stonework evident in this image is only heightened by the blurred tree in the bottom left corner, as well as the trace of a ghostly figure in the foreground – a horse and cart that paused long enough to be captured, just barely, in Baldus’ long exposure.

The subject of this picture brings to bear the importance of the symbolism of the architecture of the Nouveau Louvre for the reign of Napoleon III. The relief and figures on the façade of the Pavillon Colbert highlight France’s greatest realms of achievement, from the conquering of nature through to industry. The upmost relief represents Earth and Water, while the figures to either side personify Science and Industry. Baldus has also ensured that a human figure on the right-hand side of the central entrance has stood still long enough to provide the viewer with a sense of the imposing scale of the statuary, as well as the entire façade. The result is a striking image that is sharper than any contemporary enlargement, exemplary of Baldus’ ability to isolate and capture architecture while giving a slight hint to the life that continued to move around it.

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Edouard Baldus
Pavillon de la Bibliotheque, Rue de Rivoli, Paris
c. 1855
Salt print mounted on card
43.2 x 34.3 cms (16.98 x 13.48 ins)
Inscribed ‘no 103′ in the negative, lower left. Stamped E. Baldus on the lower right of the mount and titled lower left ‘Nouveau Louvre Rue Rivoli’
Dimensions Mount: 50.7 x 44 cms Image: 43.2 x 34.3 cms

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Edouard Baldus
Pavillon Richelieu, Nouveau Louvre, Paris
c. 1855
Salt print mounted on card
45 x 34.5 cms (17.69 x 13.56 ins)
Inscribed ‘no 79′ in the negative, lower left and signed in the negative lower right ‘E. Baldus’ Stamped E. Baldus on the lower right of the mount and titled lower left ‘Pavillon Richelieu Nouveau Louvre’
Dimensions Mount: 61 x 43.9 cms Image: 45 x 34.5 cms

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An image that the Metropolitan Museum of Art describes as “among the most spectacular of all Baldus photographs,” it is clear that Baldus took full advantage of the opportunity to use larger equipment, which was necessary to capture his tremendous subject. The technical advantages afforded by glass plate negatives allowed him to create equally large contact prints without joining separate negatives, as was his practice with many of his earlier images. Here, the resulting photograph depicts the Pavillon Richelieu in a striking range of tonality, from the crisp texture of the street to the glowing reflection of the pavilion’s new tiled roof.

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Edouard Baldus
Pavillon Sully, Nouveau Louvre, Paris
c. 1857
Salt print mounted on card
44.5 x 34.5 cms (17.49 x 13.56 ins)
Inscribed ‘no 92′ in the negative, lower left. Stamped E. Baldus on the lower right of the mount and titled lower left ‘Pavillon Sully Nouveau Louvre’.
Dimensions Mount: 61 x 44 cms Image: 44.9 x 34.5 cms

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Baldus returned to this particular pavilion numerous times, his earliest images of the structure produced while he was photographing for the Mission Heliographique. The Pavillon Sully was originally built during the Classical Period of Louis XIV in 1625, and served as a model for the Second Empire additions. One of the grandest of all the completed facades, the Pavillon Sully acquired many sculputural additions during the reconstruction, but the central clock from which the pavilion derived its original name (Pavillon de l’Horloge) remained central.

Taking an elevated view, Baldus depicted the Pavillon Sully with exemplary precision that is sharper than any contemporary enlargement. The result is one of the most imposing images of the Nouveau Louvre pavilions, giving the entire façade a commanding sense of presence as it rises above trees in the foreground, which are just blurred enough to reveal Baldus’ long exposure.

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Edouard Baldus
Saint Etienne du Mont, Paris
c. 1858
Salt print mounted on card
44.1 x 34.2 cms (17.33 x 13.44 ins)
Stamped E Baldus on the lower right of the mount and titled lower left ‘St Etienne du Mont’ Dimensions Mount: 61 x 43.9 cms Image: 44.1 x 34.2 cms

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Edouard Baldus
Notre Dame, Facade Principale, Paris
1857
Salt print mounted on card
44.5 x 34.2 cms (17.49 x 13.44 ins)
Inscribed ‘no 34′ in the negative, lower right. Stamped E. Baldus on the lower right of the mount and titled lower left ‘Notre Dame Facade Principal’
Dimensions Mount: 61 x 44 cms Image: 44.5 x 34.2 cms

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This iconic image of Notre Dame embodies the direct and frontal style that came to define Baldus’ architectural images. Here, he has captured the majesty of one of Paris’ most notable landmarks by elevating his vantage point and placing the viewer at eye level with its magnificent rose window. This print is a carefully executed example of the type of balance and symmetry Baldus aimed to capture while working on this commission.

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James Hyman Gallery
16 Savile Row
London W1S 3PL
Telephone 020 7494 3857

Opening hours:
By appointment

James Hyman Gallery website

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24
Oct
12

Exhibition: ‘Eugène Atget: Old Paris’ at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Exhibition dates: 24th August – 4th November 2012

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“…I have assembled photographic glass negatives… in all the old streets of Old Paris, artistic documents showing the beautiful civil architecture from the 16th to the 19th century. The old mansions, historic or interesting houses, beautiful façades, lovely doors, beautiful panelling, door knockers, old fountains, stylish staircases (wrought iron and wood) and interiors of all the churches in Paris… This enormous documentary and artistic collection is now finished. I can say that I possess the whole of Old Paris.”

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Eugène Atget 1920

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“The first time I saw photographs by Eugène Atget was in 1925 in the studio of Man Ray in Paris. Their impact was immediate and tremendous. There was a sudden flash of recognition – the shock of realism unadorned. The subjects were not sensational, but nevertheless shocking in their very familiarity. The real world, seen with wonderment and surprise, was mirrored in each print.”

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Berenice Abbott 1964

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Spaces That Matter…

[In revelatio, in revelation] the photographers trained eye is perhaps more of a hindrance than may at first be thought. The photographer may struggle with, “a sense of intense inevitability, insofar as this kind of image seems to be one that the photographer ‘could not not photograph’.”Awareness may become a double bind for the photographer. It may force the photographer to photograph because he can do nothing else, because he is aware of the presence of ‘punctum’ within a space, even an empty ‘poetic space’, but this awareness may then blind him, may ossify the condition of revealing through his directed gaze, unless he is very attentive and drops, as Harding says, “memory and imagination and desire, and just take what’s given.”10 The object, as Baudrillard notes,“isolates itself and creates a sense of emptiness … and then it irradiates this emptiness,”11 but this irradiation of emptiness does require an awareness of it in order to stabilise the transgressive fluctuations of the ecstasy of photography (which are necessarily fluid), through the making of an image that, as Baudrillard notes, “may well retrieve and immobilise subjective and objective punctum from their ‘thunderous surroundings’.”12 Knowledge of awareness is a key to this immobilisation and image making. The philosopher Krishnamurti has interesting things to say about this process, and I think it is worth quoting him extensively here:

“Now with that same attention I’m going to see that when you flatter me, or insult me, there is no image, because I’m tremendously attentive … I listen because the mind wants to find out if it is creating an image out of every word, out of every contact. I’m tremendously awake, therefore I find in myself a person who is inattentive, asleep, dull, who makes images and gets hurt – not an intelligent man. Have you understood it at least verbally? Now apply it. Then you are sensitive to every occasion, it brings its own right action. And if anybody says something to you, you are tremendously attentive, not to any prejudices, but you are attentive to your conditioning. Therefore you have established a relationship with him, which is entirely different from his relationship with you. Because if he is prejudiced, you are not; if he is unaware, you are aware. Therefore you will never create an image about him. You see the difference?”

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Now apply this attention to the awareness of the photographer. If he does not create images that are prejudice, could this not stop a photographer ‘not not’ photographing because he sees spaces with clarity, not as acts of performativity, spaces of ritualised production overlaid with memory, imagination, desire, and nostalgia?

Here an examination of the work of two photographers is instructive. The first, the early 20th century Parisian photographer Eugène Atget, brings to his empty street and parkscapes visions that elude the senses, visions that slip between dreaming and waking, between conscious and subconscious realms. These are not utopian spaces, not felicitous spaces that may be grasped and defined with the nostalgic fixity of spaces we love,14 but spaces of love that cannot be enclosed because Atget made no image of them.

I believe Atget moved his photographs onto a different spatio-temporal plane by not being aware of making images, aware-less-ness, dropping away the appendages of image making (technique, reality, artifice, reportage) by instinctively placing the camera where he wanted it, thus creating a unique artistic language. His images become a blend of the space of intimacy and world-space as he strains toward, “communion with the universe, in a word, space, the invisible space that man can live in nevertheless, and which surrounds him with countless presences.”15 These are not just ‘localised poetics’16 nor a memento of the absent, but the pre-essence of an intimate world space reinscribed through the vision (the transgressive glance not the steadfast gaze) of the photographer. Atget is not just absent or present, here or there,17 but neither here nor there. His images reverberate (retentir), in Minkowski’s sense of the word, with an essence of life that flows onward in terms of time and space independent of their causality.18″

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Excerpt from the paper Spaces That Matter: Awareness and Entropia in the Imaging of Place (2002). Read the full paper…

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Many thankx to the Art Gallery of New South Wales for allowing me to publish the photographs in this posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Eugène Atget
Fireplace, Hôtel Matignon, former Austrian embassy, 57 rue de Varenne, 7th arrodissement
1905
Albumen photograph
© Musée Carnavalet, Paris / Roger-Viollet / TopFoto

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Eugène Atget
Boulevard de Strasbourg
1912
Albumen photograph
George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film, Rochester

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Eugène Atget
Cabaret au Tambour, 62 quai de la Tournelle, 5th arrodissement
1908
Albumen photograph
© Musée Carnavalet, Paris / Roger-Viollet / TopFoto

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Eugène Atget
Street vendor, place Saint-Médard, 5th arrondissement
September 1898
Albumen photograph
© Musée Carnavalet, Paris / Roger-Viollet / TopFoto

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Eugène Atget
‘Spring’, by the sculptor François Barois,
jardin des Tuileries, 1st arrondissement
1907
Albumen photograph
© Musée Carnavalet, Paris / Roger-Viollet / TopFoto

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“The first comprehensive exhibition in Australia of Eugène Atget’s (1857-1927) work will showcase over 200 photographs primarily from the more than 4000 strong collection of Musée Carnavalet, Paris with the important inclusion of Atget’s work, as compiled by Man Ray, from the collection of George Eastman House, Rochester, USA.

Atget was considered a commercial photographer who sold what he called ‘documents for artists’, ie. photographs of landscapes, close-up shots, genre scenes and other details that painters could use as reference. As soon as Atget turned his attention to photographing the streets of Paris, his work attracted the attention of leading institutions such as Musée Carnavalet and the Bibliothèque Nationale which became his principal clients. It is in these photographs of Paris that we find the best of Atget, the artist who shows us a city remote from the clichés of the Belle Époque. Atget’s images of ‘old Paris’ depict areas that had not been touched by Baron Haussmann’s 19th century modernisation program of the city. We see empty streets and buildings, details that usually pass unnoticed, all presented as rigorous, original compositions that offer a mysterious group portrait of the city.

The exhibition is organised into 11 sections that correspond to the thematic groupings used by Atget himself. They are: small trades, Parisian types and shops 1898-1922; the streets of Paris 1898-1913; ornaments 1900-1921; interiors 1901-1910; vehicles 1903-1910; gardens 1898-1914; the Seine 1900-1923; the streets of Paris 1921-1924; and outside the city centre 1899-1913.

The equipment and techniques deployed by Atget link him to 19th-century photography. He had an 18 x 24 cm wooden, bellows camera which was heavy and had to be supported on a tripod. The use of glass plates allowed Atget to capture every tiny detail with great precision. Also traditional was his printing method, usually on albumen paper made light-sensitive with silver nitrate, exposed under natural light and subsequently gold-tinted. Atget’s vision of photography was, however, an astonishingly modern one. The photographs selected by Man Ray, who met Atget in the 1920s, indicate the immediate interest that the work aroused among the Surrealists because of the composition, ghosting, reflections, and its very mundanity. The first to appreciate his talents and importance as an artist were the photographer Berenice Abbott and Man Ray himself, both of whom lobbied to preserve Atget’s photographs.

As a result, he inspired artists and photographers such as Brassaï, the Surrealists, Walker Evans and Bernd & Hilla Becher amongst many others, and he can also be considered a starting-point for 20th-century documentary photography.”

Press release from the AGNSW website

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Eugène Atget
The former Collège de Chanac, 12 rue de Bièvre, 5th arrondissement
August 1900
Albumen photograph
© Musée Carnavalet, Paris / Roger-Viollet / TopFoto

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Eugène Atget
Rue de l’Hôtel de Ville
1921
Gelatin silver photograph
22.8 x 17.7 cm
Collection Art Gallery of New South Wales

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Eugène Atget
Rue de l’Hôtel de Ville (detail)
1921
Gelatin silver photograph
22.8 x 17.7 cm
Collection Art Gallery of New South Wales

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Eugène Atget
Rue Hautefeuille, 6th arrondissement
1898
Albumen photograph
© Musée Carnavalet, Paris / Roger-Viollet / TopFoto

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Eugène Atget
Shop sign, au Rémouleur
on the corner of the rue des Nonnains-d’Hyères and rue de l’Hôtel-de-Ville, 4th arrondissement
July 1899
Albumen photograph
© Musée Carnavalet, Paris / Roger-Viollet / TopFoto

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Endnotes

9. Barthes, Roland. Camera Lucida. (trans. Richard Howard). New York: Hill and Wang, 1981, p.47, quoted in Zurbrugg, Nicholas. “‘Apocalyptic’? ‘Negative’? ‘Pessimistic’?: Baudrillard, Virilio, and techno-culture,” in Koop, Stuart (ed.,). Photography Post Photography. Melbourne: Centre for Contemporary Photography, 1995, p.79.

10. See Endnote 2. I believe that this form of attentiveness to present experience is not the same as Featherstone’s fragmentation of time into affect-charged experiences of the presentness of the world in postmodern culture. “Postmodern everyday culture is … a culture of stylistic diversity and heterogeneity (comprising different parts or qualities), of an overload of imagery and simulations which lead to a loss of the referent or sense of reality. The subsequent fragmentation of time into a series of presents through a lack of capacity to chain signs and images into narrative sequences leads to a schizophrenic emphasis on vivid, immediate, isolated, affect-charged experiences of the presentness of the world – of intensities.”
Featherstone, Mike. Consumer Culture and Postmodernism. London: Sage Publications, 1991, p.124.

11. Baudrillard, Jean. The Transparency of Evil. (trans. James Benedict). London: Verso, 1993, quoted in Zurbrugg, Nicholas. “‘Apocalyptic’? ‘Negative’? ‘Pessimistic’?: Baudrillard, Virilio, and techno-culture,” in Koop, Stuart (ed.,). Photography Post Photography. Melbourne: Centre for Contemporary Photography, 1995, p.80.

12. Baudrillard, Jean. The Art of Disappearance. (trans. Nicholas Zurbrugg). Brisbane: Institute of Modern Art, 1994, p.9, quoted in Zurbrugg, Nicholas. “‘Apocalyptic’? ‘Negative’? ‘Pessimistic’?: Baudrillard, Virilio, and techno-culture,” in Koop, Stuart (ed.,). Photography Post Photography. Melbourne: Centre for Contemporary Photography, 1995, p.83.

13. Krishnamurti. Beginnings of Learning. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1978, pp.130-131.

14. Bachelard, Gaston. The Poetics of Space. (trans Maria Jolas). Boston: Beacon Press, 1994, p.xxxv.

15. Ibid., p.203.

16. Palmer, Daniel. “Between Place and Non-Place: The Poetics of Empty Space,” in Palmer, Daniel (ed.,). Photofile Issue 62 (‘Fresh’). Sydney: Australian Centre for Photography, April 2001, p.47.

17. Bachelard, Gaston. The Poetics of Space. (trans Maria Jolas). Boston: Beacon Press, 1994, p.212.

18. See the editor’s note by Gilson, Etienne (ed.,) in Bachelard, Gaston. The Poetics of Space. (trans Maria Jolas). Boston: Beacon Press, 1994, p.xvi.

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Art Gallery of New South Wales
Art Gallery Road, The Domain
Sydney NSW 2000, Australia

Opening hours:
Open every day 10am – 5pm
except Christmas Day and Good Friday

Art Gallery of New South Wales website

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26
Jun
12

Exhibition: ‘Eugène Atget: As Paris Was’ at Ticho House, the Museum of Israel, Jerusalem

Exhibition dates: 23rd March – 30th June 2012

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Some Atget photographs that I have never seen before makes this posting all the more pleasurable. The pendulous nature of the sea monster, like a leg hanging over the edge of a table (can’t u just feel the weight of it!); the oppressive solidity of the wall on the left hand side of Coin des rues Poulletier et Saint-Louis-en-l’île (c.1915); and the two undated photographs of Saint-Cloud: the dark, spidery presence of the tree in winter and the absolute recognition of the visual escape point in the reflection of trees in pond. Magnificent.

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Many thankx to the Museum of Israel for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Eugène Atget
Saint-Cloud
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Eugène Atget
Saint-Cloud
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Eugène Atget
Bagatelle
1926

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“The photographic oeuvre of Eugène Atget (1857-1927) has become a landmark in the history of the medium, and his works are recognized as an integral part of the canon of documentary photography. His subject matter was Paris with its houses, streets, parks, and castles – interior and exterior details of architecture being transformed by modernity. His fame came decades later; however his enduring legacy in the field is still discernible worldwide. This exhibition of Atget’s photographs of Paris, the first ever in Israel.

The Israel Museum, Jerusalem has announced  the acquisition of 200 photographs by the pioneering French documentary photographer Eugène Atget, gifted by Pamela and George Rohr, New York, and an anonymous donor, New York. These works add an important new dimension to the Museum’s exceptional photography holdings, encompassing over 55,000 works from the earliest days of photography to contemporary times.

Seventy of these newly gifted works will be presented in Eugène Atget: As Paris Was, an exhibition at Ticho House, the Israel Museum’s historic venue in downtown Jerusalem, featuring Atget’s images of Paris from the mid-1890s until 1927. Marking the first ever presentation of the photographer’s work in Israel, the exhibition is curated by Nissan Perez, Horace and Grace Goldsmith Senior Curator in the Museum’s Noel and Harriette Levine Department of Photography.

French photographer Eugène Atget is recognized internationally for his integral role in the canon of documentary photography. After working as a sailor, actor, and painter for almost thirty years, he embarked on a self-assigned mission to document French life, culture, and history in and around Paris. He chose houses, streets, parks, and castles as his subjects, capturing interior and exterior details of architecture being transformed by modernity. Without any official recognition, this enterprise yielded a massive visual compendium of nearly 10,000 photographs that Atget loosely designated as “documents pour artistes” (documents for artists), created by means of anachronistic technology and an antiquated camera.

“We are deeply grateful to our donors for this generous gift of so important a trove of works by Eugène Atget, a pivotal figure in the history of photography,” said James S. Snyder, Anne and Jerome Fisher Director of the Israel Museum. “We are proud to be sharing Atget’s unique vision with Israeli audiences for the first time and in the resonant setting of our historic Ticho House, which also juxtaposes turn-of-the-last century Jerusalem with its encroaching modernity.”

“Atget’s photographs of Paris, including those featured in Eugène Atget: As Paris Was, do not depict the city as a bustling modern metropolis,” said exhibition curator Nissan Perez. “He trained his lens on the older, often decaying buildings and parks. The scenes he captured, mostly devoid of human presence, express desolation and solitude, reminiscent of an empty stage awaiting the actors’ entrance.”

Press release from the Museum of Israel, Jerusalem website

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Eugène Atget
Poupées, 63 rue de Sèvres
1910-11

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Eugène Atget
Hôtel, 1 rue des Prouvaires et 54 rue Saint-Honoré
1912

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Eugène Atget
Coin des rues Poulletier et Saint-Louis-en-l’île
c.1915

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Eugène Atget
Gargouille, cour du Louvre
1902

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Ticho House
The Museum of Israel
Situated in the Jerusalem city center

Ticho House hours:
Sun, Mon, Wed, Thurs
 10 am – 5 pm
Tues 10 am – 10 pm
Fri 10 am – 2 pm

The Museum of Israel website

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29
May
12

Art Blart 600 postings and 600 likes!

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Art Blart started on November 13th 2008 and has just posted its 600th post!
The first posting was a quotation by Susan Sontag about photography, an auspicious way to start.

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Art Blart on Facebook has just clocked up its 600th Like!

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I like these coincidences in life… thank you to all the readers for following over the years *smiles*

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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Eugene Atget
Au Tambour, 63 quai de la Tournelle
1908

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The second photograph ever published on Art Blart on the very first day. Ghosts in the machine (Asimov)…

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03
Apr
12

Exhibition: ‘Eugène Atget: “Documents pour artistes”‘ at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), New York

Exhibition dates: 6th February – 9th April 2012

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“These are simply documents I make.”

Eugène Atget

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“One might think of Atget’s work at Sceaux as… a summation and as the consummate achievement of his work as a photographer – a coherent, uncompromising statement of what he had learned of his craft, and of how he had amplified and elaborated the sensibility with which he had begun. Or perhaps one might see the work at Sceaux as a portrait of Atget himself, not excluding petty flaws, but showing most clearly the boldness and certainty – what his old friend Calmettes called the intransigence – of his taste, his method, his vision.

John Szarkowski

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The first of two postings about the work of Eugène Atget, this exhibition at MOMA the first in twenty-five years to focus on his “Documents for artists.” Atget was my first hero in photography and the greatest influence on my early black and white photography before I departed and found my own voice as an artist. Through his photographs, his vision he remains a life-long friend. He taught me so much about where to place the camera and how to see the world. He made me aware. For that I am eternally grateful.

Many thankx to MOMA for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Eugène Atget
Coin, Boulevard de la Chapelle et rue Fleury 76,18e
June 1921
Matte albumen silver print
6 13/16 x 9″ (17.3 x 22.9 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Abbott-Levy Collection. Partial gift of Shirley C. Burden

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Eugène Atget
Cour, 7 rue de Valence
June 1922
Matte albumen silver print
7 x 8 15/16″ (17.8 x 22.7 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Abbott-Levy Collection. Partial gift of Shirley C. Burden

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Eugène Atget
Cour, 41 rue Broca
1912
Albumen silver print
6 5/8 x 8 1/4″ (16.9 x 21 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Abbott-Levy Collection. Partial gift of Shirley C. Burden

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“The sign above the entrance to Eugène Atget’s studio in Paris read Documents pour artistes (Documents for artists), declaring his modest ambition to create photographs for others to use as source material in their work. Atget (French, 1857–1927) made more than 8,500 pictures of Paris and its environs in a career that spanned over thirty years, from the late nineteenth century until his death. To facilitate access to this vast body of work for himself and his clients, he organized his photographs into discrete series, a model that guides the organization of this exhibition. The works are presented here in six groups, demonstrating Atget’s sustained attention to certain motifs or locations and his consistently inventive and elegant methods of rendering the complexity of the three-dimensional world on a flat, rectangular plate.

In 1925 the American artist Man Ray purchased forty-two photographs from Atget, who lived down the street from him in Montparnasse. Man Ray believed he detected a kindred Surrealist sensibility in the work, to which suggestion Atget replied, “These are simply documents I make.” This humility belies the extraordinary pictorial sophistication and beauty that is characteristic of much of Atget’s oeuvre and his role as touchstone and inspiration for subsequent generations of photographers, from Walker Evans to Lee Friedlander. This exhibition bears witness to his success, no matter the unassuming description he gave of his life’s work.

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A Note on the Prints

Atget made photographs with a view camera resting on a tripod. An example of his 24-by-18-centimeter glass plate negatives is on display here. Each print was made by exposing light-sensitive paper to the sun in direct contact with one of these negatives, which Atget numbered sequentially within each series. He frequently scratched the number into the emulsion on the negative, and thus it appears in reverse at the bottom of most prints. He also inscribed the number, along with the work’s title, in pencil on the verso of each print. These titles appear (with English translations where necessary) on the individual wall labels, preserving Atget’s occasionally idiosyncratic titling practices. The Abbott-Levy Collection at The Museum of Modern Art, to which the prints in this exhibition belong (except where noted), is composed of close to 5,000 distinct photographs and 1,200 glass plate negatives that were in Atget’s studio at the time of his death. The Museum purchased this collection in 1968 from photographer Berenice Abbott and art dealer Julien Levy, thanks to the unflagging efforts of John Szarkowski, then director of the Department of Photography, and in part to the generosity of Shirley C. Burden.

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Fifth arrondissement 

For more than thirty years, Atget photographed in and around Paris. Curiously, given the depth of this investigation, he never photographed the Eiffel Tower, generally avoided the grand boulevards, and eschewed picture postcard views. Instead Atget focused on the fabric of the city: facades of individual buildings (both notable and anonymous), meandering streetscapes, details of stonework and ironwork, churches, shops, and the occasional monument. Even a selective cross section of the photographs he made in the fifth arrondissement over the course of his career suggests that his approach, while far from systematic, might yet be termed comprehensive.

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Courtyards

Atget clearly relished the metaphorical and physical aspects of the courtyard – a space that hovers between public and private, interior and exterior – and he photographed scores of them, both rural and urban. The motif was chosen as the backdrop for what was likely Atget’s first photograph of an automobile (Cour, 7 rue de Valence), and it was versatile enough to transform itself depending on where Atget placed his camera (see the two views of the courtyard at 27 quai d’Anjou). The dark areas that appear in the upper corners of some prints are the result of vignetting: a technique in which the light coming through the camera’s lens does not fully cover the glass plate negative, allowing Atget to create an arched pictorial space that echoed the physical one before his camera.”

Wall text from the exhibition

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Eugène Atget
Rue de la Montagne-Sainte-Geneviève
June 1925
Gelatin silver printing-out-paper print
6 11/16 x 8 3/4″ (17 x 22.2 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Abbott-Levy Collection. Partial gift of Shirley C. Burden

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Eugène Atget
Maison où Mourut Voltaire en 1778, 1 rue de Beaune
1909
Albumen silver print
8 9/16 x 7″ (21.8 x 17.8 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Abbott-Levy Collection. Partial gift of Shirley C. Burden

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Eugène Atget
Balcon, 17 rue du Petit-Pont
1913
Albumen silver print
8 5/8 x 6 15/16″ (21.9 x 17.7 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Abbott-Levy Collection. Partial gift of Shirley C. Burden

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Eugène Atget: “Documents pour artistes presents six fresh and highly focused cross sections of the career of master photographer Eugène Atget (French, 1857 – 1927), drawn exclusively from The Museum of Modern Art’s unparalleled holdings of his work. The exhibition, on view at MoMA from February 6 through April 9, 2012, gets its name from the sign outside Atget’s studio door, which declared his modest ambition to create documents for other artists to use as source material in their own work. Whether exploring Paris’s fifth arrondissement across several decades, or the decayed grandeur of parks at Sceaux in a remarkable creative outburst at the twilight of his career, Atget’s lens captured the essence of his chosen subject with increasing complexity and sensitivity. Also featured are Atget’s photographs made in the Luxembourg gardens; his urban and rural courtyards; his pictures of select Parisian types; and his photographs of mannequins, store windows, and street fairs, which deeply appealed to Surrealist artists living in Paris after the First World War. The exhibition is organized by Sarah Hermanson Meister, Curator, Department of Photography, The Museum of Modern Art.

Atget made more than 8,500 pictures of Paris and its environs in a career that spanned over 30 years, from the late-19th century until his death. To facilitate access to this vast body of work for himself and his clients, he organized his photographs into discrete series, a model that guides the organization of this exhibition. More than 100 photographs are presented in six groups, demonstrating Atget’s sustained attention to certain motifs or locations and his consistently inventive and elegant methods of rendering the complexity of the three-dimensional world on a flat, rectangular plate.

With seemingly inexhaustible curiosity, Atget photographed the streets of Paris. Eschewing picture-postcard views, and, remarkably, never once photographing the Eiffel Tower, he instead focused on the fabric of the city, taking pictures along the Seine, in every arrondissement, and in the “zone” outside the fortified wall that encompassed Paris at the time. His photographs of the fifth arrondissement are typical of this approach, and include facades of individual buildings (both notable and anonymous), meandering streetscapes, details of stonework and ironwork, churches, and the occasional monument.

Between March and June 1925, Atget made 66 photographs in the abandoned Parc de Sceaux, on the outskirts of Paris, almost half of which are on view in this exhibition. His approach was confident and personal, even quixotic, and his notations of the time of day for certain exposures read almost like diary entries. These photographs have long been recognized as among Atget’s finest, and this is the first opportunity for audiences outside of France to appreciate the full diversity and richness of this accomplishment.

Atget photographed the Jardin de Luxembourg more than any other Parisian park, likely reflecting his preference for its character and its proximity to his home and studio on rue Campagne-Première in Montparnasse. His early photographs there tend to capture human activity – children with their governesses or men conversing in the shade – but this gave way to a more focused exploration of the garden’s botanical and sculptural components following the First World War, and culminated in studies that delicately balance masses of light and shadow, as is typical of Atget’s late work.

Atget firmly resisted public association with the Surrealists, yet his work – in particular his photographs of shop windows, mannequins, and the street fairs around Paris – captured the eye of artists with decidedly avant-garde inclinations, such as Man Ray and Tristan Tzara. Man Ray lived down the street from Atget, and the young American photographer Berenice Abbott, while working as Man Ray’s studio assistant, made Atget’s acquaintance in the mid-1920s – a relationship that ultimately brought the contents of Atget’s studio at the time of his death to MoMA, almost 40 years later.

Atget clearly relished the metaphorical and physical aspects of the courtyard – a space that hovers between public and private, interior and exterior – and he photographed scores of them, both rural and urban. This exhibition marks the first time these pictures have been grouped together, allowing the public to appreciate previously unexplored aspects of the Abbott-Levy Collection, which includes prints of nearly 5,000 different images.

Only a tiny fraction of the negatives Atget exposed during his lifetime are photographs of people, yet they have attracted attention disproportionate to their number. With few exceptions, this segment of his creative output can be divided into three types: street merchants (petits métiers); ragpickers (chiffonniers) or Romanies (romanichels, or Gypsies), who lived in impermanent structures just outside the fortified wall surrounding Paris; and prostitutes. As with each section of this exhibition, Atget’s career is represented by the finest prints drawn from critically distinct and essential aspects of his practice, allowing a fresh appreciation of photography’s first modern master.”

Press release from the MOMA website

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Eugène Atget
Luxembourg
1923-25
Matte albumen silver print
6 7/8 x 9″ (17.5 x 22.8 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Abbott-Levy Collection. Partial gift of Shirley C. Burden

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Eugène Atget
Luxembourg
1923-25
Matte albumen silver print
7 x 8 13/16″ (17.8 x 22.4 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Abbott-Levy Collection. Partial gift of Shirley C. Burden

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Eugène Atget
Luxembourg
1902-03
Albumen silver print
6 5/8 x 8 3/8″ (16.8 x 21.3 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Abbott-Levy Collection. Partial gift of Shirley C. Burden

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Jardin de Luxembourg 

Atget photographed the Jardin de Luxembourg more than any other Parisian park, likely reflecting his preference for its character as well as its proximity to his home and studio on rue Campagne-Première in Montparnasse (about a ten-minute walk away). His photographs of the gardens made around 1900 tend to capture human activity (children with their governesses, men conversing in the shade), but this gave way to a more focused exploration of the garden’s botanical and sculptural components following the First World War and culminated in studies that delicately balance masses of light and shadow, typical of Atget’s late work.

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Parc de Sceaux 

Between March and June 1925, Atget made sixty-six photographs in the abandoned Parc de Sceaux, on the outskirts of Paris. His approach was confident and personal, even quixotic, and his notations of the time of day for certain exposures read almost like diary entries. John Szarkowski wrote of this body of work: “One might think of Atget’s work at Sceaux as… a summation and as the consummate achievement of his work as a photographer – a coherent, uncompromising statement of what he had learned of his craft, and of how he had amplified and elaborated the sensibility with which he had begun. Or perhaps one might see the work at Sceaux as a portrait of Atget himself, not excluding petty flaws, but showing most clearly the boldness and certainty – what his old friend Calmettes called the intransigence – of his taste, his method, his vision. Atget made his last photograph at Sceaux after its restoration had begun. He perceived that the effort to tidy the grounds in anticipation of their conversion to a public park would fundamentally alter the untended, decayed grandeur that had been his muse.”

Wall text from the exhibition

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Eugène Atget
Parc de Sceaux
June 1925
Gelatin silver printing-out-paper print
7 x 8 7/8″ (17.8 x 22.5 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Abbott-Levy Collection. Partial gift of Shirley C. Burden

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Eugène Atget
Parc de Sceaux, mars, 8 h. matin
1925
Gelatin silver printing-out-paper print
7 1/16 x 8 13/16″ (17.9 x 22.4 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Abbott-Levy Collection. Partial gift of Shirley C. Burden

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Eugène Atget
Parc de Sceaux, 7 h. matin
March 1925
Matte albumen silver print
6 15/16 x 9 1/16″ (17.6 x 23 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Abbott-Levy Collection. Partial gift of Shirley C. Burden

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People of Paris 

Only a tiny fraction of the negatives Atget exposed during his lifetime feature the human figure as a central element. With few exceptions, this segment of his creative output can be divided into three types: street merchants (petits métiers); zoniers—ragpickers (chiffonniers) and Romanies (romanichels, or Gypsies)—who lived in impermanent structures in the zone just outside the fortified wall surrounding Paris; and prostitutes. The painter André Dignimont commissioned Atget to pursue this third subject in the spring of 1921, but the decidedly untawdry resulting images of brothels and prostitutes are only obliquely suggestive of the nature of their trade, so it is not difficult to imagine why the commission was concluded after only about a dozen negatives.

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Surrogates and the Surreal 

Atget’s photograph Pendant l’éclipse (During the eclipse) was featured on the cover of the seventh issue of the Parisian Surrealists’ publication La Révolution surréaliste, with the caption Les Dernières Conversions (The last converts), in June 1926. The picture was uncredited, as were the two additional photographs reproduced inside. Although Atget firmly resisted the association, his work – in particular his photographs of shop windows, mannequins, and the street fairs around Paris – had captured the attention of artists with decidedly avant-garde inclinations, such as Man Ray and Tristan Tzara. Man Ray lived on the same street as Atget, and the young American photographer Berenice Abbott (working as Man Ray’s studio assistant) learned of the French photographer and made his acquaintance in the mid-1920s – a relationship that ultimately brought the contents of Atget’s studio at the time of his death (in 1927) to The Museum of Modern Art almost forty years later.

Wall text from the exhibition

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Eugène Atget
Fête du Trône
1925
Gelatin silver printing-out-paper print
6 7/16 x 8 7/16″ (16.4 x 21.5 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Abbott-Levy Collection. Partial gift of Shirley C. Burden

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Eugène Atget
Fête de Vaugirard
1926
Gelatin silver printing-out-paper print
6 13/16 x 8 3/4″ (17.3 x 22.2 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Abbott-Levy Collection. Partial gift of Shirley C. Burden

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Eugène Atget
Avenue des Gobelins
1925
Gelatin silver printing-out-paper print
8 1/4 x 6 1/2″ (21 x 16.7 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Abbott-Levy Collection. Partial gift of Shirley C. Burden

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Eugène Atget
Romanichels, groupe
1912
Gelatin silver printing-out-paper print
8 3/8 x 6 11/16″ (21.2 x 17 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Abbott-Levy Collection. Partial gift of Shirley C. Burden

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The Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53 Street
New York, NY 10019
T: (212) 708-9400

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Monday, 10:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Friday, 10:30 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Closed Tuesday

MOMA website

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04
Mar
12

Exhibition: ‘Lyonel Feininger: Photographs, 1928-1939′ at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 25th October 2011 – 11th March 2012

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Another photographer whose work was largely unknown to me. His work can be seen to reference Pictorialism, Eugene Atget, Constructivism and Modernism, the latter in the last three photographs of the Bauhaus buildings at night which are just beautiful! The capture of form, light (emanating from windows) and atmosphere is very pleasing.
P.S. Don’t be confused when looking at the photographs in the posting. Note the difference in the work of Lynonel and his two sons Andreas and Theodore (nicknamed Lux).

Many thankx to the J. Paul Getty Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Lyonel Feininger 
American, 1871–1956
Untitled [Street Scene, Double Exposure, Halle]
1929-1930
Gelatin silver print
Image: 17.8 x 23.7 cm (7 x 9 5/16 in.)
Gift of T. Lux Feininger, Houghton Library, Harvard University
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

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Lucia Moholy
British, born Czechoslovakia, 1894–1989
Untitled [Southern View of Newly Completed Bauhaus, Dessau]
1926
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 5.7 x 8.1 cm (2 1/4 x 3 3/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

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Lyonel Feininger 
American, 1871–1956
Untitled [Train Station, Dessau]
1928-1929
Gelatin silver print
Image: 17.7 x 23.7 cm (6 15/16 x 9 5/16 in.)
Gift of T. Lux Feininger, Houghton Library, Harvard University
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

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T. Lux Feininger 
American, born Germany 1910-2011
Metalltanz
1929
Gelatin silver print
Image: 10.8 x 14.4 cm (4 1/4 x 5 5/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Estate of T. Lux Feininger

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“Widely recognized as a painter, printmaker, and draftsman who taught at the Bauhaus, Lyonel Feininger (American, 1871-1956) turned to photography later in his career as a tool for visual exploration. Drawn mostly from the collections at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Lyonel Feininger: Photographs, 1928-1939 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, October 25, 2011 – March 11, 2012, presents for the first time Feininger’s unknown body of photographic work. The exhibition is accompanied by a selection of photographs by other Bauhaus masters and students from the Getty Museum’s permanent collection. The Getty is the first U.S. venue to present the exhibition, which will have been on view at the Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin from February 26 – May 15, 2011 and the Staatliche Graphische Sammlung, Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich from June 2 – July 17, 2011. Following the Getty installation, the exhibition will be shown at the Harvard Art Museums from March 30 – June 2, 2012. At the Getty, the exhibition will run concurrently with Narrative Interventions in Photography.

“We are delighted to be the first U.S. venue to present this important exhibition organized by the Harvard Art Museums/ Busch-Reisinger Museum,” says Virginia Heckert, curator of photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum and curator of the Getty’s installation. “The presentation at the Getty provides a unique opportunity to consider Lyonel Feininger’s achievement in photography, juxtaposed with experimental works in photography at the Bauhaus from our collection.”

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Lyonel Feininger Photographs

When Lyonel Feininger (1871-1956) took up the camera in 1928, the American painter was among the most prominent artists in Germany and had been on the faculty of the Bauhaus school of art, architecture, and design since it was established by Walter Gropius in 1919. For the next decade, he used the camera to explore transparency, reflection, night imagery, and the effects of light and shadow. Despite his early skepticism about this “mechanical” medium, Feininger was inspired by the enthusiasm of his sons Andreas and Theodore (nicknamed Lux), who had installed a darkroom in the basement of their house, as well as by the innovative work of fellow Bauhaus master, László Moholy-Nagy.

Although Lyonel Feininger would eventually explore many of the experimental techniques promoted by Moholy-Nagy and practiced by others at the school, he remained isolated and out of step with the rest of the Bauhaus. Working alone and often at night, he created expressive, introspective, otherworldly images that have little in common with the playful student photography more typically associated with the school. Using a Voigtländer Bergheil camera (on display in the exhibition), frequently with a tripod, he photographed the neighborhood around the Bauhaus campus and masters’ houses, and the Dessau railway station, occasionally reversing the tonalities to create negative images.

Lyonel Feininger: Photographs, 1928-1939 also includes the artist’s photographs from his travels in 1929-31 to Halle, Paris, and Brittany, where he investigated architectural form and urban decay in photographs and works in other media. In Halle, while working on a painting commission for the city, Feininger recorded architectural sites in works such as Halle Market with the Church of St. Mary and the Red Tower (1929-30), and experimented with multiple exposures in photographs such as Untitled (Street Scene, Double Exposure, Halle) (1929-30), a hallucinatory image that merges two views of pedestrians and moving vehicles.

Since 1892 Feininger had spent parts of the summer on the Baltic coast, where the sea and dunes, along with the harbors, rustic farmhouses, and medieval towns, became some of his most powerful sources of inspiration. During the summers Feininger also took time off from painting, focusing instead on producing sketches outdoors or making charcoal drawings and watercolors on the veranda of the house he rented. Included in the exhibition are photographs Feininger created in Deep an der Rega (in present-day Poland) between 1929 and 1935 which record the unique character of the locale, the people, and the artistic and leisure activities he pursued.

In the months after the Nazis closed the Bauhaus, and prior to Feininger’s departure from Dessau in March 1933, he made a series of unsettling photographs featuring mannequins in shop windows such as Drunk with Beauty (1932). Feininger’s images emphasize not only the eerily lifelike and strangely seductive quality of the mannequins, but also the disorienting, dreamlike effect created by reflections on the glass.

In 1937 Feininger permanently settled in New York City after a nearly 50-year absence, and photography served as an important means of reacquainting himself with the city in which he had lived until the age of sixteen. The off-kilter bird’s eye view he made from his eleventh-floor apartment of the Second Avenue elevated train tracks, Untitled (Second Avenue El from Window of 235 East 22nd Street, New York) (1939), is a dizzying photograph of an American subject in the style of European avant-garde photography, and mirrors the artist’s own precarious and disorienting position between two worlds, and between past and present.

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The Bauhaus

Walter Gropius, director of the Bauhaus from 1919 to 1928, changed the face of art education with his philosophy of integrating art, craft, and technology with everyday life at the Bauhaus. When Gropius’s newly designed building in Dessau was completed in December 1926, its innovative structure did more than house the various components of the school; it became an integral aspect of life at the Bauhaus and a stage for its myriad activities, from studies and leisurely pursuits to theatrical performances. From the beginning, the camera recorded the architecture as the most convincing statement of Gropius’ philosophy as well as the fervor with which the students embraced it. The photographs in this complementary section of the exhibition also examine the various ways photography played a role at the Bauhaus, even before it became part of the curriculum.

In addition to the collaborative environment encouraged in workshops, students found opportunities to bond during their leisure time, whether in a band that played improvisational music or on excursions to nearby beaches, parks, and country fairs. One of the most active recorders of life at the Bauhaus was Lyonel Feininger’s youngest son, T. Lux, who was also a member of the jazz band.

Masters and students alike at the Bauhaus took up the camera as a tool with which to record not only the architecture and daily life of the Bauhaus, but also one another. Although photography was not part of the original curriculum, it found active advocates in the figures of László Moholy-Nagy and his wife Lucia Moholy. With his innovative approach and her technical expertise, the Moholy-Nagys provided inspiration for others to use the camera as a means of both documentation and creative expression. The resulting photographs, which included techniques such as camera-less photographs (photograms), multiple exposures, photomontage and collages (“photo-plastics”), and the combination of text and image (“typo-photo”), contributed to Neues Sehen, or the “new vision,” that characterized photography in Germany between the two world wars.

It was not until 1929 that photography was added to the Bauhaus curriculum by Hannes Meyer, the new director following Gropius’s departure. A part of the advertising department, the newly established workshop was led by Walter Peterhans, who included technical exercises as well as assignments in the genres of portraiture, still life, advertisement, and photojournalism in the three-year course of study.”

Press release from the J.Paul Getty website

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Lyonel Feininger 
American, 1871-1956
Untitled [Night View of Trees and Street Lamp, Burgkühnauer Allee, Dessau]
1928
Gelatin silver print
Image: 17.7 x 23.7 cm (6 15/16 x 9 5/16 in.)
Gift of T. Lux Feininger, Houghton Library, Harvard University
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

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Andreas Feininger
Stockholm (Shell sign at night)
1935
Gelatin silver print
17.4 x 24.2 cm
© Estate of Gertrud E. Feininger. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of the Estate of Gertrud E. Feininger

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Lyonel Feininger 
American, 1871-1956
Drunk with Beauty
1932
Gelatin silver print
Image: 17.9 x 23.9 cm (7 1/16 x 9 7/16 in.)
Gift of T. Lux Feininger, Houghton Library, Harvard University
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

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Lyonel Feininger 
American, 1871-1956
Bauhaus
March 22, 1929
Gelatin silver print
Image: 17.8 x 23.9 cm (7 x 9 7/16 in.)
Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Lyonel Feininger
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

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Lyonel Feininger 
American, 1871-1956
Bauhaus
March 26, 1929
Gelatin silver print
Image: 17.9 x 14.3 cm (7 1/16 x 5 5/8 in.)
Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

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Lyonel Feininger 
American, 1871-1956
“Moholy’s Studio Window” around 10 p.m.
1928
Gelatin silver print
Image: 17.8 x 12.8 cm (7 x 5 1/16 in.)
Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

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Lyonel Feininger
American, 1871–1956
On the Lookout, Deep an der Rega
1932
Gelatin silver print
Image: 17.7 x 12.7 cm (6 15/16 x 5 in.)
Gift of T. Lux Feininger, Houghton Library, Harvard University
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

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The J. Paul Getty Museum
1200 Getty Center Drive
Los Angeles, California 90049

Opening hours:
Tues – Friday 10 – 5.30pm
Saturday 10 – 9pm
Sunday 10 – 9pm
Monday closed

The J. Paul Getty Museum website

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25
Sep
11

Exhibition: ‘A Revolutionary Project: Cuba from Walker Evans to Now’ at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 17th May – 2nd October 2011

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Many thankx to the J. Paul Getty Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Walker Evans 
American, 1903 – 1975
Mule, Wagon and Two Men, Havana
1933
Gelatin silver print
Image: 13.8 x 21 cm (5 7/16 x 8 1/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Walker Evans
American, 1903 – 1975
Spectacle, Capital Steps, Possibly Independence Day
May 20, 1933
Gelatin silver print
Image: 19.7 x 25.3 cm (7 3/4 x 9 15/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Walker Evans 
American, 1903 – 1975
Old Havana Housefronts
1933
Gelatin silver print
Image: 17.6 x 22.7 cm (6 15/16 x 8 15/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Walker Evans 
American, 1903 – 1975
Balcony Spectators
1933
Gelatin silver print
Image: 19.8 x 25.2 cm (7 13/16 x 9 15/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Exhibition Marks First Showing of Getty’s Walker Evan’s Cuban Photographs; Also on view are Cuban Revolutionary Photographs and Contemporary Work by Virginia Beahan, Alex Harris, and Alexey Titarenko

Cuba’s attempt to forge an independent state with an ambitious set of social goals, all the while moored to powerful political and economic interests, has been a source of fascination for nations, intellectuals, and artists alike. On display at the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Getty Center, May 17 – October 2, 2011, A Revolutionary Project: Cuba from Walker Evans to Now, looks at three critical periods in the island nation’s history as witnessed by photographers before, during, and after the country’s 1959 Revolution.

A Revolutionary Project juxtaposes Walker Evans’s 1933 images from the end of the Gerardo Machado dictatorship with views by contemporary foreign photographers Virginia Beahan (American, b. 1946), Alex Harris (American, b. 1949), and Alexey Titarenko (Russian, b. 1962), who have explored Cuba since the withdrawal of Soviet support in the 1990s. A third section bridging these two eras presents pictures by Cuban photographers who participated in the country’s 1959 Revolution, including Alberto Korda, Perfecto Romero, and Osvaldo Salas.

“The Museum’s collection of Walker Evans prints is the largest in the U.S., but until now, we have not shown his photographs of Cuba,” explains Judith Keller, senior curator of photographs. “This exhibition allows us the opportunity to showcase this body of work, alongside newer work in the collection.”

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1933: Evans in Havana

Walker Evans (1903 – 1975) is one of the photographers most responsible for the way we now imagine American life in the 1930s. His distinctive photographic style, which he declared “transcendent documentary,” was nurtured in New York in the late 1920s and fully formed by his experience in Cuba in 1933. In the spring of that year, Walker Evans was asked by publisher J. B. Lippincott to produce a body of work about Cuba to accompany a book by the radical journalist Carleton Beals (1893 – 1979). This book, The Crime of Cuba, would be a scathing indictment of the then-current regime of Cuban President Gerardo Machado. Leaving the country less than two months before Machado was forced out of office, Evans was able to capture Cuba at the start of the revolutionary movement but almost 30 years before the 1959 Revolution.

During Evans’s time in Cuba, he made substantial strides in his photographic practice. There he worked with different format cameras, large and small, one more deliberate and descriptive, the other more spontaneous and agile. He created both close-up and wide, inclusive compositions that he could then combine in intense sequences to best communicate his response to the poverty, the ferment, and the beauty of his environment. While in Havana, Evans met the American writer, Ernest Hemingway (1899 – 1961), whose acclaimed avantgarde work he knew and admired. Hemingway’s terse narrative style, which he was then applying to his own Harry Morgan stories set in Havana and Key West, no doubt influenced Evans’s approach to the subject of Cuba’s current political and economic struggles. Evans’s photographs also reflect the inspiration of French photographer Eugène Atget’s Parisian pictures that Evans critiqued for an arts journal in 1931. The series that comprised Atget’s thorough study of “Old Paris” seem to have provided additional motivation for Evans’s selection of Havana subjects: the signage of urban storefronts, the abundant street offerings of fresh produce, the decorative balconies of old houses, the many studies of archaic horsedrawn wagons and carriages, and the portraits of women, some of whom appear to be prostitutes.

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1958 – 1966: Revolution

Machado’s fall from rule in 1933 resulted in a long power struggle that culminated in the country’s 1959 socialist revolution to overthrow dictator Fulgencio Batista, anchoring Cuba to the Soviet bloc for the next thirty years and defining a relationship with the United States that still exists today. Fidel Castro, Ernesto “Che” Guevara, and their new government harnessed photography as a means of keeping the project of the Revolution at the forefront of Cuba’s collective consciousness. As both genuine records of popular insurrection and propagandistic documents used for political purposes, pictures of the Revolution and its aftermath have shaped how both Cubans and Americans understand the significance of that revolutionary moment. Photographs in the second section of the exhibition are drawn from the work of nine Cuban photographers who participated in recording the political context and triumphs of the emerging state in the years surrounding 1959.

Included in the exhibition is an iconic image of the revolutionary hero Che Guevara by Alberto Korda titled Guerrillero Heroico (March 5, 1960). One of the world’s most reproduced images, it has been adopted for political causes, appearing on countless numbers of t-shirts, banners, and street art around the globe. The print on view in the exhibition is among the earliest versions of the photograph known to exist. Made as a press print, it was used as a source to reproduce the image in media outlets a year after Korda photographed Guevara at a rally in Havana.

Also on display in the exhibition is the well-known revolutionary photograph Patria o Muerte, Cuba (Negative, January 1959; print, 1984) by Osvaldo Salas, one of Cuba’s most important photographers. Salas effectively captures and conveys the populist fervor in Cuba shortly after the movement’s triumph with an image of a patriotic sign framed by a celebratory crowd.

The photographs included in this section of the exhibition are culled from the extensive holdings of Cuban photography assembled by the Austrian collector, Christian Skrein, including a number of recent acquisitions by the Museum.

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Since 1991: The Special Period

After Soviet troops began to withdraw from Cuba in September of 1991, the troubled Cuban economy suffered severe internal shortages, and Fidel Castro declared what is known as the “Special Period” (período especial), marked by food rationing, energy conservation, and a decline of public services. In the nearly twenty years since the Soviet withdrawal, Cubans have managed to survive through perseverance, the forging of new political relationships, and the easing of socialist systems. This period of transition, which continues today with the recent transfer of power from Fidel Castro to his brother Raúl, has attracted the attention of photographers from around the world who are interested in exploring the relationship between Cuba’s revolutionary past and its uncertain future. The final section of the exhibition looks specifically at the work of three contemporary photographers with diverse approaches to documenting the island in recent decades: Virginia Beahan, Alex Harris, and Alexey Titarenko.

Virginia Beahan’s work concentrates on the landscape’s relationship to history and culture. In 2001, she began a multiyear project on Cuba, photographing its topography in search of remnants of the island’s diverse past. The work resulted in a publication in 2009 called Cuba: Singing with Bright Tears. Beahan’s Cuba is a land of contradictions, full of disappointments and hope, decay and rejuvenating beauty, simultaneously anchored to the past while looking beyond the present. Born and raised in Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg), Russia, Alexey Titarenko became fascinated with Cuba in 2003, when he made his first trip to Havana. Titarenko’s goal was to represent the soul of the Cuban capital. In the artist’s photographs, the city is shown with little overt reference to its politics. Instead, Titarenko describes the conditions of life in the communist country, depicting people persevering amid varying states of ruin. Venturing out of the tourist zones of Havana into the network of dilapidated avenues beyond the old city walls, his images depict a gray metropolis whose inhabitants congregate on the streets to collect food rations, fix long-outmoded cars, and play baseball.

A former student of Walker Evans, Alex Harris made several trips to Cuba following the collapse of the eastern bloc and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, developing a powerful body of color work that addresses the country’s cultural fabric during a period of difficult economic circumstances. His photographs focus on portraits of women whose lives are affected by the tourist-fueled sex trade, landscapes made through the windshields of refurbished 1950s American cars, and monuments to the Cuban national hero José Martí. His study was published in the form of a book, The Idea of Cuba, in 2007. Through these distinct vantage points, Harris probed the country’s propensity for ingenuity as it underwent great transition.”

Press release from the J. Paul Getty Museum website

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Walker Evans 
American, 1903 – 1975
Citizen in Downtown Havana
1933
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.2 x 11.7 cm (8 3/4 x 4 5/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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Walker Evans 
American, 1903 – 1975
Woman on the Street, Havana
1933
Gelatin silver print
Image: 24.6 x 14.6 cm (9 11/16 x 5 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Walker Evans 
American, 1903 – 1975
Woman in a Courtyard
1933
Gelatin silver print
Image: 25.3 x 16.2 cm (9 15/16 x 6 3/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Walker Evans 
American, 1903 – 1975
Coal Stevedore, Havana
1933
Gelatin silver print
Image: 20.2 x 15.2 cm (7 15/16 x 6 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Walker Evans 
American, 1903 – 1975
Negro Child, Havana
1933
Gelatin silver print
Image: 19.5 x 14.8 cm (7 11/16 x 5 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum

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Walker Evans 
American, 1903 – 1975
Stevedore
1933
Gelatin silver print
Image: 20.1 x 15.1 cm (7 15/16 x 5 15/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum

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The J. Paul Getty Museum
1200 Getty Center Drive
Los Angeles, California 90049

Opening hours:
Tues – Friday 10 – 5.30pm
Saturday 10 – 9pm
Sunday 10 – 9pm
Monday closed

The J. Paul Getty Museum website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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