Biography | Bibliography
In his youth, Eugéne Atget was a sailor, and later an actor eking out a living playing minor roles. In his early forties, faced with the need to earn a living in some other way, he tried painting and then turned to photography. A friend wrote of him: “For some time he had had the ambition to create a collection of all that which both in Paris and its surroundings was artistic and picturesque. An immense subject” (quoted in The Wold of Atget, p. xi).
With a single-minded devotion, Atget began his collection: architecture, trees, statues, shop windows, street vendors, fountains, urns – thousands of photographs in dozens of categories. The sign on Atget’s door read Documents pour Artistes and his notebook showed that he sold photographs to designers, painters (Braque, Utrillo, and Vlaminck among them), editors, architects, stage designers, and others who used his pictures as resources for their own work.
It was not until just before his death that Atget’s photographs began to be appreciated in their own right. Man Ray published a few (without credit) in 1926 in his periodical “La Révolution Surréaliste.” Berenice Abbott recognized Atget’s genius. It was largely through her efforts after his death that his work was preserved and promoted. She predicted, “He will be remembered as an urbanist historian, a genuine romanticist, a lover of Paris, a Balzac of the camera, from whose work we can weave a large tapestry of French civilization”.
John Szarkowski described the unique poetry of Atget’s vision: “His pictures are as plain and transparent and precious as water. Individually they are like short beautiful sentences made of small and common words. Collectively they are a testament to the simplicity of genius” (Eugéne Atget: The Simplicity of Genius, Modern Photography, Jan. 1973, p.73).”
Gerry Badger, Eugene Atget, London: Phaidon Press, 2001.
David Harris, Eugene Atget: Unknown Paris, New York: The New York Press, 1999.
Molly Nesbit, Atget’s Seven Albums, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992.
Marcel Proust, A Vision of Paris: The Photographs of Eugene Atget, New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1963.
John Szarkowski, Atget, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2000.
John Szarkowski, Maria Morris Hambourg, The Work of Atget: Modern Times, New York Graphic Society, 1985.
John Szarkowski, Maria Morris Hambourg, The Work of Atget: The Ancien Regime, New York Graphic Society, 1985.
John Szarkowski, Maria Morris Hambourg, The Work of Atget: The Art of Old Paris, New York Graphic Society, 1985.
John Szarkowski, Maria Morris Hambourg, The Work of Atget: Old France, New York Graphic Society, 1985.