Eugène Atget, 'Boucherie

Eugène Atget, 'Boucherie

Eugène Atget
'Boucherie, Rue Christine, Paris'
France
About 1900
Gold toned gelatin-silver print
Width 17.5 cm x height 23 cm
Museum no. CIRC.411-1974

The Photograph

After Atget's death in 1927, his archive was divided between the Monuments Historiques in Paris and Berenice Abbott. She had first met Atget and seen his photographs when working in Man Ray's studio a few years earlier. This print was made from one of the negatives in her collection and was printed in 1956. The print is gold toned, creating a beautifully stark and deeply toned print that contrasts with the vintage albumen print of the other photograph by Atget. Just as Atget's albumen print denies the modern artistic quality of his photographs, the gold toned print declares his work in 1956 as 'art' photography and belonging to 20th-century aesthetics.

The Photographer

Eugène Atget was a commercial photographer who worked in and around Paris for over thirty years.

At his death in 1927, his work was known only by a few archivists and artists who had an interest in his photographic record of French visual culture.

After a failed attempt at a career as an actor, Atget set up as a photographer in Paris in 1890. Initially he supplied artists with photographic models, taking pictures of landscapes, posed figures and still lifes. He was friends with, and his work served, artists but he was never to consider his own photographs primarily artistic.

By 1897 he had begun a self-motivated photographic survey of Paris concentrating on the architecture and design of historic buildings in Paris. There were three general groups of buyers of his photographs: artists (his original market), craftsmen wanting to refer to old style architectural details such as ironwork and stone carving, and libraries and museums wanting an illustrative survey of 'Old Paris'. The latter group was the largest buyer of his work and from 1907 to 1912 Atget carried out commissions for them.

He was happiest working without constraints and returned to his life's project, documenting what he wished of Paris, in 1912. In the 1920s avant-garde artists, including Man Ray, whose studio was in the same street as Atget's home, became interested in his work. Some of his images seemed to them to be self-consciously modern and surreal.

 

This photograph can be found in Print Room Box 13a.