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Eugène Atget Photographs Exhibition Opens at Getty Museum June 20, 2000

Accompanying Exhibition Highlights Recent Getty Photographs Acquisitions

May 1, 2000

Los Angeles-The Man in the Street: Eugène Atget in Paris, is an enthralling and highly personal visual guide to Paris created by the now-celebrated photographer Eugène Atget (1856-1927). Running from June 20 through October 8, 2000 at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, this fascinating exhibition highlights selected photographs that Atget produced from about 1897 until 1927-the results of his obsessive pursuit of the essential appearance of the city of Paris. His work influenced younger photographers including Man Ray, Walker Evans, and Berenice Abbott, whose fascination with city scenes would carry forward the spirit of Atget's work.

Drawn entirely from the Getty Museum collection, the exhibition includes more than 80 of Atget's images captured during his self-devised and eccentric photographic campaign, which documented aspects of Paris and the daily life of its ordinary citizens that have since changed or disappeared. From sidewalk displays, shop windows, staircases, sculptures, and gardens to ragpickers and children at play in parks, Atget systematically "collected" a Paris little seen by tourists and seldom frequented by the affluent. To complement the exhibition, the Getty is publishing a new book about Atget in its In Focus photography series.

Orphaned early and independent by necessity, Atget became a photographer after brief stints as a seaman and an actor. At first, the "documents for artists" that Atget made were studies of plants, animals, and landscapes, intended to be used by painters, illustrators, architects, and decorators. He soon began a series of solitary pilgrimages through the streets of Paris, toting a heavy, tripod-mounted camera and a supply of old-fashioned glass-plate negatives, consistently making photographs from a pedestrian's viewpoint. Paris became his principal and perennial subject.

Eugène Atget gradually accumulated nearly 8,500 negatives that recorded the vanishing remnants of the city's past as preserved in its architecture, neighborhood streets, storefront displays, shop signs, popular pastimes, and common outdoor occupations. His most characteristic works in this pictorial encyclopedia of Paris are moody, sometimes melancholy studies that capture the true essence of the city-not postcard panoramas dominated by tourist attractions like the Eiffel Tower. "The subtle beauty of Atget's work lies in his uncanny ability to encapsulate and transform the mundane visual data of urban daily life and its setting, to make the fleeting permanent and the prosaic, poetic," says Gordon Baldwin, an associate curator in the department of photographs at the Getty Museum.

Atget was not the only photographer to choose a city and its life as a principal subject. To provide context for Atget's urban photographs, the exhibition includes selected images by his predecessors Silas A. Holmes (in New York) and Charles Marville (in Paris), and his successors, including Berenice Abbott, Walker Evans, and Garry Winogrand in, respectively, New York, New Orleans, and Los Angeles. Abbott, who had been introduced to Atget while she was an assistant to Man Ray, played a crucial role in bringing his work to a larger public by publishing his images and donating many of them to the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Running concurrently with the Atget show is Tradition and Innovation: Recent Additions to the Photographs Collection. On display from June 20 to October 8, 2000, this exhibition features approximately 40 images selected from more than 500 photographs acquired by the Getty Museum through gift or purchase since the Getty Center's December 1997 opening. Represented are important works by many acclaimed photographers, such as Carleton Watkins, Edward Steichen, Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, Gary Winogrand, Diane Arbus, Chuck Close, and David Hockney-as well as examples of less well-known individuals such as Dorothy Norman and Hector Garcia.

These recent acquisitions vary from paper negatives and albumen prints created in the 1850s to color carbro prints and Polaroids made as recently as 1990. The lively diversity of materials used to make the photographs and the range of individual approaches to subject matter reflect the goal of achieving quality, breadth, and a rich texture for the Museum's photographs collection.

Related Events--The Man in the Street: Eugène Atget in Paris

Summer Concerts-Music with a View Series
This concert is presented as part of the Getty Museum's 2000 summer concert series which presents musical programs that complement current exhibitions. All concerts are held in the Museum courtyard. Tickets ($22) are available through Tickets L.A. at 323-655-TKTS (Parking reservations will be made automatically through Tickets L.A., but the $5 parking fee still applies.)


Atget's Paris: Music from the Street to the Opera House
Concert complements the Atget photographs exhibition.
Saturday, July 15 at 8 p.m.
(pre-concert talk at 7:30 p.m.)
Sunday, July 16 at 7:30 p.m.
(pre-concert talk at 7 p.m.)

Exhibition Lecture


Atget's Paris: Then and Now-Thursday, July 6, 7 p.m.
Gerald Panter, photographer, shares his insights on Eugène Atget whose photographs focused on the urban environment of Paris during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. For several years Panter has followed in Atget's footsteps, re-photographing his view of Paris to gain knowledge about Atget and his methodology. The lecture is at 7 p.m. in the Harold M. Williams Auditorium. Call 310-440-7300 for parking and seating reservations.



In Focus: Eugène Atget-Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum
To complement the Atget exhibition, more than 50 photographs by Eugène Atget (1857--1927) featuring images of often-inconspicuous buildings, side streets, courtyards, shop signs, and display windows in his beloved Paris will be published as part of the In Focus series. Includes commentary on each image. J. Paul Getty Museum, In Focus series. $17.50 paperback.

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About the Getty:

The J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic institution devoted to the visual arts that features the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Foundation, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and the Getty Research Institute. The J. Paul Getty Trust and Getty programs serve a varied audience from two locations: the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Malibu.

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The J. Paul Getty Museum collects in seven distinct areas, including Greek and Roman antiquities, European paintings, drawings, manuscripts, sculpture, and decorative arts, and European and American photographs. The Museum's mission is to make the collection meaningful and attractive to a broad audience by presenting and interpreting the works of art through educational programs, special exhibitions, publications, conservation, and research.