Taken from the museum’s own collection of photographs—usually not shown to the public—the exhibition Eugène Atget, Paris recently debuted at the Musée Carnavalet and will run until July 29, 2012.
Atget, who began his life as an orphan and dreamed of becoming an actor, settled on a career in painting when he failed to make a living onstage. Even this career, however, did not provide sufficient means to survive, so the artist converted himself into a photographer at the start of the 1890s with the hopes of supplying painters with inspirational material. Gardens, modest shops and the banks of the seine were perfect backdrops for Aget, and he would eventually go on to sell his photographs to prestigious institutions like the Musée Carnavalet and the National Library of France. Today, these shots allow visitors staying at the Hotel de la Tour Maubourg to get a glimpse of everyday life in early 20th-century France.
Spring is the perfect season for this thought-provoking collection of photographs that encapsulate everything we love about Paris. Atget’s subjects are a far cry from the glamorous characters of the Belle Epoque, but they nonetheless represent an old-fashioned quaintness that has become part of the myth of Paris. Over 230 shots make up the exhibit, all taken between 1898 and 1927.
Visitors will see both well-known and never-before-seen photographs, making this exhibit different from previous Atget retrospectives held in Paris. The exhibit even features a room dedicated to 43 shots collected by surrealist artist Man Ray. This small collection, normally kept in Rochester, demonstrates the influence of Atget on the Surrealist movement. Atget’s distinctly modern eye, which captures the bizarre details of the city in surprising ways, is clearly showcased here.