Posts Tagged ‘Eugène Atget Fortifications porte de Sèvres

20
Jun
21

Exhibition: ‘Eugène Atget, Voir Paris’ at the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paris

Exhibition dates: 3rd June – 19th September 2021

Curators: Anne de Mondenard, Head of the Photography and Digital Images Department, musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris Agnès Sire, Artistic director, Fondation HCB

 

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Parc Delessert, XVIe' 1914

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Parc Delessert, XVIe
1914
© Paris Musées / musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris

 

 

The power of imagination

 

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

.
Albert Einstein

 

Imagination, or Visualisation, may be simply defined as the formation of mental images or pictures. It helps us form images of the world – in the case of Atget, images of Old Paris – in which the viewer can value the experience of walking in the city, Paris, walking in the footsteps of history through the gaze of the artist, our gaze.

If we exercise our imagination we can resist, and subvert, our presumed reality – undermining the so-called reality of the world, a world in which we are rationally and relationally forced to understand how things are and how they work.

This is what artists do… they undermine the logic of the world through being exposed to the qualities instantiated in the physical world, and by then stepping aside from that world they exercise their imagination to create, to imagine, to expose themselves (much like a photographic plate) to the perceptions of an external physical world viewed from multiple perspectives.

Thus, “Imagination … plays a central role in empirical cognition by serving as the basis for both memory and the creative arts. In addition it also plays a kind of mediating role between the faculties of sensibility and understanding. Kant calls this mediating role a “transcendental function” of the imagination. It mediates and transcends by being tied in its functioning to both faculties. On one hand, it produces sensible representations, and is thus connected to sensibility. On the other hand, it is not a purely passive faculty but rather engages in the activity of bringing together various representations, as does memory, for example. Kant explicitly connects understanding with this kind of active mental processing.”1

How appropriate for the visualisations of Atget, purported documents for artists but in an alternative reality, poetic concepts (of his imagination) in which he “invites us to exercise our gaze, to consider the complexity of the world as the source of our faculty of imagination.”

You only have to look at one image to imagine Atget lugging his large plate camera to the Place du Tertre, Montmartre in 1922 (below); scouting the square in the 18th arrondissement of Paris near the Basilica of the Sacré Cœur; setting up the camera on its heavy tripod, throwing the dark cloth over his head and then focusing the composition on the ground glass – to then place a tree dissected by another tree directly in your eye line, and starting half way up the tree.2 Who would do that!

It gives you the shivers… the scene is just a little too real. It appears from the transcendental function of the imagination as surrealist “other”. It is un/real. Super real.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Colin McLear. “Kant: Philosophy of Mind,” on the Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy website [Online] Cited 20/06/2021.
  2. Also note how far the camera front has moved beyond the circle of light from the lens – so vertical parallels stay parallel.

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

 

Eugène Atget gave up a career as an actor in order to pursue a relatively new art: photographic recording. From the most classical architecture to the most remote courtyards, Atget, more interested in the city, obsessively depicted a Paris marked by history, offering his prints to painters and libraries. Characters that show up in the frame blend into the background.

Atget said little to nothing about his own work. Reported statements served to define his project as essentially documentary, but it was his direct, poetic approach that fascinated many of his contemporaries. This produced contradictory commentary on his unusual oeuvre. He was fundamentally independent, a bit austere, and fostered neither intellectual concepts nor artistic principles as foundations from which to value experience. He invites us to exercise our gaze, to consider the complexity of the world as the source of our faculty of imagination.

 

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Église Saint-Médard, Ve' 1900-1901

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Église Saint-Médard, Ve (Church of Saint-Médard, Ve)
1900-1901
© Paris Musées / musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Ambassade d'Autriche, 57, rue de Varenne, VIIe' 1905

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Ambassade d’Autriche, 57, rue de Varenne, VIIe (Austrian embassy, 57, rue de Varenne, VIIe)
1905
© Paris Musées / musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Un coin de l'entrepôt de Bercy, rue Léopold, XIIe' 1913

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Un coin de l’entrepôt de Bercy, rue Léopold, XIIe (A corner of the Bercy warehouse, rue Léopold, XIIe)
1913
© Paris Musées / musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Maison de Balzac, 24, rue Berton, XVIe' 1913

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Maison de Balzac, 24, rue Berton, XVIe
1913
© Paris Musées / musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Place du Tertre, Montmartre, XVIIIe' 1922

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Place du Tertre, Montmartre, XVIIIe
1922
© Paris Musées / musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Fortifications, porte de Sèvres, XVe' 1923

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Fortifications, porte de Sèvres, XVe
1923
© Paris Musées / musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris

 

 

This exhibition, presented at the Fondation HCB, is the fruit of long research efforts jointly undertaken by the two institutions throughout the musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris’ collections. The result is an outstanding presentation of the oeuvre of Eugène Atget (1857-1927), a unique figure and photography pioneer. Above all an artisan, Atget’s prolific output of photographs was intended for artists and lovers of the old Paris; he rose to fame posthumously. A forerunner of modernity is seen in his work by art critics and photographers, among them Henri Cartier-Bresson, whose early work sought to imitate Atget. Paris’ place within the oeuvre of Cartier-Bresson is also the subject of an exhibition at the musée Carnavalet from June 15 to October 31, a project in partnership with the Fondation HCB.

First acknowledged in the United States and by the French surrealist scene before finding acclaim with succeeding generations of photographers, Atget still exerts unprecedented influence in the 21st century, though reception of his work remains mixed. Bearing a view camera and glass plates, he often captured his subject at dawn. For almost thirty years, he sought to make a collection of the Paris of his time. He also explored city limits, what is known as “the zone”. Today, his images of nearly‑deserted streets, store fronts, and courtyards evidence urban change at the turn of the 20th century.

Beyond its documentary aspects, Atget’s photography expresses a deep aesthetic sensibility, illustrating the incalculable contribution he made to the medium. As Paris changed, Atget’s work method evolved accordingly, becoming more and more sensitive to the light and to atmospheric effects. This devotion to detail (using a modest subject matter), in contrast to the triumphant pictorialism of the time, is also singularly modern, allowing a notion of pleasure to surface – one which is rarely mentioned in reference to Atget. The exhibition and its accompanying publication propose sharing this pleasure.

The exhibition is organised by the musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris, Paris-Musées and the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson. The musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris houses a collection of over 9,000 prints by Atget, the largest archive on the photographer. The exhibition Eugène Atget – Voir Paris presents a selection of around 150 of the artist’s original prints.

 

Biography

Eugène Atget was born in Libourne, France in 1857. He gave up a career as an actor and took up photography starting in 1888. He was self-taught. In 1890, he began producing material for use by artists: shots of plants, landscapes and diverse objects. In 1897, he started to take photographs of the Paris of his time systematically, attentive to scenes of urban life, architectural detail and the capital’s topography. Towards the end of his life, he met Man Ray’s assistant, Berenice Abbott, who took two portraits of him. He died in Paris in 1927. Abbott learned of his death just as she was planning to offer him the portraits. Along with gallerist Julien Levy and Atget’s executor, André Calmettes, Abbott aided in rescuing Atget’s studio archive, the recognition of his work through various publications, and the admission of the Abbott / Levy collection to the New York Museum of Modern Art’s collection in 1968.

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Cabaret de l'Homme armé, 25, rue des Blancs-Manteaux, IVe' September 1900

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Cabaret de l’Homme armé, 25, rue des Blancs-Manteaux, IVe
September 1900
© Paris Musées / musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Ancien hôtel Sully-Charost, 11, rue du Cherche-Midi, VIe' 1904

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Ancien hôtel Sully-Charost, 11, rue du Cherche-Midi, VIe (Former Sully-Charost hotel, 11, rue du Cherche-Midi, VIe)
1904
© Paris Musées / musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Vieille maison, 6, rue de Fourcy, IVe' 1910

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Vieille maison, 6, rue de Fourcy, IVe (Old house, 6, rue de Fourcy, IVe)
1910
© Paris Musées / musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Fontaine du passage des Singes, 6, rue des Guillemites, IVe' 1911

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Fontaine du passage des Singes, 6, rue des Guillemites, IVe
1911
© Paris Musées / musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Coin de la place Saint-André-des-Arts et de la rue Hautefeuille, VIe' 1912

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Coin de la place Saint-André-des-Arts et de la rue Hautefeuille, VIe (Corner of Place Saint-André-des-Arts and Rue Hautefeuille, VIe)
1912
© Paris Musées / musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Un coin du pont Marie, IVe' 1921

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Un coin du pont Marie, IVe (A corner of Marie bridge, IVe)
1921
© Paris Musées / musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Rue des Chantres, IVe' 1923

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Rue des Chantres, IVe
1923
© Paris Musées / musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris

 

 

Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson
79 rue des Archives
75003 Paris

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday
11am – 7pm
Closed on Mondays

Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson website

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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: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

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