Eugène Atget: Old Paris

MAY.27.2011           AUG.27.2011

A collective and mysterious portrait of the City of Lights

Eugène Atget
The Eclipse, April 1912
Courtesy of George Eastman Museum



MAY.27.2011         AUG.27.2011


Recoletos Exhibition Hall
Paseo Recoletos 23, 28004 Madrid

Fundación MAPFRE had the pleasure of introducing for the first time in Madrid the work of French photographer Eugène Atget, a unique master of photography whose contribution to the history of this artistic discipline was fundamental. His enigmatic images have inspired countless artists throughout the 20th century, and even today their ¡nfluence still resonates.

The exhibition

The exhibition Eugène Atget: Old Paris brought for the first time the work of the French photographer to the Spanish capital. More than 200 images of Paris and its surrounding areas, taken between 1898 and 1927, provided a complete panorama of the evolution of the artist’s work. The photographs were from collections from the Musée Carnavalet in Paris, the George Eastmann House in Rochester, and the collection owned by Fundación MAPFRE.

These photographs showed Atget at his best, capturing a city far removed from the cliches of the Belle Epoque. The images in “Old Paris” were of areas that had not been affected by the architectural renewal carried out by Baron Haussmann. These were deserted streets and buildings, details that tend to go unnoticed, austere and original framings, in a mysterious collective portrait of the city. Through his images, we discover a Paris of elegant interiors, fruit and vegetables stands, and prostitutes positioned in the doors of brothels.

The exhibition was organized in 12 sections that sought to follow the same thematic groups chosen by Atget: Small Trades, Parisian Types and Shops, 1898-1922; The Streets of Paris, 1898-1913; Ornaments, 1900-1921; Interiors, 1901-1910; Cars, 1903-1910; Gardens, 1898-1914; The Seine, 1900-1923; The Streets of Paris, 1921-1924; Outside the City Center, 1899-1913; and Outskirts of Paris, 1901-1921.

Included as an appendix to this selection were 43 photographs from the Man Ray album. These included Paris types and atmospheres from between 1899 and 1926 that Man Ray had selected himself. Atget’s work was of great interest to the Surrealists. The first people to recognize his unique perspective and talent were photographer Berenice Abbott and Man Ray, both instrumental in the preservation of his work.

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