Daniel Wolf, Inc.
Note: Agent for André Jammes
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Eugène Atget (French, 1857 - 1927)
Paris, France (Place Created)
Gelatin silver chloride print on printing-out paper
17.8 × 22.6 cm (7 × 8 7/8 in.)
Eugène Atget is usually thought of as depicting ordinary streets and buildings that preserved modest aspects of Paris's past, but he also made views of the city's great public monuments. Nearly all of these images are of structures built by the Bourbon monarchy, which was overthrown by the French Revolution. One of the principal and final glories of royal patronage is the Panthéon, the Late Baroque masterpiece by the architect Jacques-Germain Soufflot (1713-1780). Intended by Louis XV to be dedicated to the patron saint of Paris, Geneviève, this cruciform, domed church was constructed between 1755 and 1792 on the top of the hill on the Left Bank named after the saint. It acquired its present name and function during the Revolution, when it was converted into a mausoleum for the remains of great Frenchmen. Among those interred in its somber splendor are Voltaire (1694-1778), Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), Jean-Paul Marat (1743-1793), Victor Hugo (1802-1885), and Émile Zola (1840-1902).
Atget made his atmospheric study by photographing diagonally across the place Sainte- Geneviève toward the north side of the Panthéon, with its powerful colonnaded dome. Because the negative is printed very darkly, the church of Saint-Étienne-du-Mont in the left foreground becomes a black silhouette balanced by the dark mass of the building on the right. Together they frame the Panthéon, which is rendered entirely in muted grays. The photograph becomes as much a study of Paris weather as of Paris architecture. The sharply raked lines of the foreground buildings and the pattern of the wet paving stones lead the eye into the misty distance, while the procession of diminishing streetlights emphasizes the bulk of the Panthéon, looming beyond. Atget has cannily marshaled an array of pictorial and procedural devices to produce a highly dramatic image.
For another, less dramatic view of the Pantheon by Atget, see 90.XM.64.114.
Originally published in Eugène Atget, In Focus: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum by Gordon Baldwin (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2000), 72. ©2000, J. Paul Getty Trust.
The Art Institute of Chicago, Marie-Thérèse Jammes and André Jammes. Niepce to Atget: The First Century of Photography (Chicago: Art Institute, 1977), cover.
Baldwin, Gordon. In Focus: Eugène Atget: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2000), pl. 36.