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Staircase Rail, Versailles, France

Eugène Atget took up photography later in life and became a passionate observer of Paris and its environs for thirty years. Rather than romanticizing its people and places, he looked at his subjects sharply and clearly. Despite his use of old-fashioned technology, young contemporary photographers, like Man Ray and his assistant, Berenice Abbott, saw the innovation and freshness of Atget’s approach. The Surrealists particularly admired his use of reflections, odd juxtapositions, and evocative mood. Abbott wrote: “He saw the old and the new, as an archeologist excavates strata of past civilizations. He admired the elegancies of Versailles and the adornments of ragpickers’ huts, the life of the moment and the architectural monuments of the past. . . . Thus he represents in photography the urbane and humane virtues of French culture.”

Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art’s collection also includes Abbott’s complete portfolio 20 Photographs by Eugène Atget (1856–1927) (Eskenazi Museum of Art 300. X.54.1–.20).

Eugène Atget
French, 1857–1927
Staircase Rail, Versailles, France
1910
Albumen print
Imagesheet: 8 9/16 x 7 1/8 in. (21.7 x 18.1 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, 75.7.2