Estate of Eugène Atget, French, 1857 - 1927, sold to Berenice Abbott, 1927.
Berenice Abbott, American, 1898 - 1991
This image is available for download, without charge, under the Getty's Open Content Program.
Open Content images tend to be large in file-size. To avoid potential data charges from your carrier, we recommend making sure your device is connected to a Wi-Fi network before downloading.
Not currently on view
Luxembourg - Enfants
Eugène Atget (French, 1857 - 1927)
Paris, France (Place Depicted)
Albumen silver print
17.8 × 20.6 cm (7 × 8 1/8 in.)
Although it is commonly thought that a "typical" photograph by Eugène Atget depicts an unpeopled scene, he created many in which people appear. They are most often simply those individuals who happened to be present in the place where he was making a view, although occasionally they seem to have been posed. Less commonly, they constitute the specific subject of a work, as seen here in one of a series of pictures done in the Luxembourg Gardens. It appears he included people to show how the public used these spaces. Of the seven foreground figures, three are evidently aware of Atget and the camera: the nanny is clearly suspicious of the photographer's intentions, the boy on the run in a sailor middy and high-laced boots is nonchalantly curious, and the standing girl with a sand shovel to her mouth is puzzled. Her three companions scratching in the dirt with their shovels are oblivious, and the well-bundled-up toddler is intent on her shovel and its tablespoon of sand. They are overlooked emblematically by a statue of one of the queens of France and more prosaically by a row of seated nurses with their charges in the background. Other figures are lost in the shadows of the path that leads into the distance.
This image was made relatively early in Atget's career and straightforwardly portrays Parisian life of the period rather than inventorying a more concrete facet of its past. With the passage of time, however, the photograph has become a document of historical interest, if for no other reason than the clothing it records. Children today still play in the Luxembourg Gardens and are still overseen by watchful guardians, but clothing is far less formal now, and toys are apt to be of plastic, not metal or wood.
Adapted from Eugène Atget, In Focus: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum by Gordon Baldwin (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2000), 10. ©2000, J. Paul Getty Trust.
The Man in the Street: Eugene Atget in Paris, exh. brochure (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2000), fig. 5.
Baldwin, Gordon. In Focus: Eugène Atget: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2000), pl. 1.