Posts Tagged ‘Baron Haussmann

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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24
Oct
12

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

Exhibition dates: 24th August – 4th November 2012

 

Eugène Atget. 'Fireplace, Hôtel Matignon, former Austrian embassy, 57 rue de Varenne, 7th arrodissement' 1905

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Fireplace, Hôtel Matignon, former Austrian embassy, 57 rue de Varenne, 7th arrodissement
1905
Albumen photograph
© Musée Carnavalet, Paris / Roger-Viollet / TopFoto

 

 

“… 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

 

“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

 

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’.”9 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?”13

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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 re-inscribed 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…

 

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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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.

 

 

Eugène Atget. 'Boulevard de Strasbourg' 1912

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Boulevard de Strasbourg
1912
Albumen photograph
George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film, Rochester

 

Eugène Atget. 'Cabaret au Tambour, 62 quai de la Tournelle, 5th arrodissement' 1908

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Cabaret au Tambour, 62 quai de la Tournelle, 5th arrodissement
1908
Albumen photograph
© Musée Carnavalet, Paris / Roger-Viollet / TopFoto

 

Eugène Atget. 'Street vendor, place Saint-Médard, 5th arrondissement' September 1898

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Street vendor, place Saint-Médard, 5th arrondissement
September 1898
Albumen photograph
© Musée Carnavalet, Paris / Roger-Viollet / TopFoto

 

Eugène Atget. "'Spring', by the sculptor François Barois, jardin des Tuileries, 1st arrondissement" 1907

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
‘Spring’, by the sculptor François Barois, jardin des Tuileries, 1st arrondissement
1907
Albumen photograph
© Musée Carnavalet, Paris / Roger-Viollet / TopFoto

 

 

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

 

Eugène Atget. 'The former Collège de Chanac, 12 rue de Bièvre, 5th arrondissement' 1900

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
The former Collège de Chanac, 12 rue de Bièvre, 5th arrondissement
August 1900
Albumen photograph
© Musée Carnavalet, Paris / Roger-Viollet / TopFoto

 

Eugène Atget. 'Rue de l'Hôtel de Ville' 1921

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Rue de l’Hôtel de Ville
1921
Gelatin silver photograph
22.8 x 17.7 cm
Collection Art Gallery of New South Wales

 

Eugène Atget. 'Rue de l'Hôtel de Ville' 1921 (detail)

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Rue de l’Hôtel de Ville (detail)
1921
Gelatin silver photograph
22.8 x 17.7cm
Collection Art Gallery of New South Wales

 

Eugène Atget. 'Rue Hautefeuille, 6th arrondissement' 1898

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Rue Hautefeuille, 6th arrondissement
1898
Albumen photograph
© Musée Carnavalet, Paris / Roger-Viollet / TopFoto

 

Eugène Atget. 'Shop sign, au Rémouleur' 1899

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
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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Art Gallery Road, The Domain
Sydney NSW 2000, Australia

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Dogs, chickens, cattle’ 1994-95

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