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Eugène Atget (French, 1857 - 1927)
Paris, France (Place Created)
Albumen silver print
22.2 × 17.2 cm (8 3/4 × 6 3/4 in.)
When Eugène Atget turned his attention to photographing les petits métiers (street tradespeople), he was adhering to a long iconic tradition in French graphic arts. Artists like Abraham Bosse in the seventeenth century, Edmé Bouchardon in the eighteenth century, and Carle Vernet in the nineteenth century took these outdoor sellers as subjects for their engravings, etchings, and lithographs. Nineteenth-century photographers like Charles Nègre (see also 84.XM.344.1 and 84.XM.692.13) and Humbert de Molard also made images of such tradespeople, as did photographers of Atget's generation, like Paul Géniaux and Louis Vert, but Atget was more thorough, portraying a larger variety of peddlers. As their livelihood depended upon their not going unnoticed, these inherently picturesque hawkers with their singsong street cries were available and seemingly willing subjects.
This vendor of lampshades in the streets of Montmartre is typical of these tradespeople, who also included ragpickers, knife sharpeners, window washers, dispensers of coconut milk, and sellers of baskets, herbs, candy, and plaster statues. (The lampshades he displays were intended for gas lamps, not electrical fixtures, which explains their uniformly small scale.) Atget's series of works depicting these individuals was made over a short span of years, from 1899 to 1901, but unlike his other series, he did not revisit this one. As he intended, artists used some of the images as sources for works in other media. Additionally, about 1904 a Parisian publisher released a set of eighty postcards of Atget's photographs of petits métiers, a unique occurrence of the wholesale commercial adoption of his pictures. (See an example of Atget’s postcards at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.)
Originally published in Eugène Atget, In Focus: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum by Gordon Baldwin (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2000), 22. ©2000, J. Paul Getty Trust.
The Man in the Street: Eugène Atget in Paris (June 20 to October 8, 2000)
- The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), June 20 to October 8, 2000
In Focus: The Portrait (January 27 to June 14, 2009)
- The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), January 27 to June 14, 2009
Baldwin, Gordon. In Focus: Eugène Atget: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2000), pl. 7.