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Eugène Atget (French, 1857 - 1927)
Saint-Cloud, France (Place Created)
Albumen silver print
18.3 × 21.8 cm (7 3/16 × 8 9/16 in.)
From 1904 until the end of his life, but particularly during the 1920s, Eugène Atget often made photographs of the gardens at the site of the palace of Saint-Cloud, just outside Paris (see also 90.XM.64.25, 90.XM.64.60, 90.XM.64.61, 90.XM.64.68, 90.XM.125, 2002.37.11). They were designed by the great French landscape architect André Le Nôtre (1613-1700), the principal inventor of the classical "French garden." Most famous for the layout of the gardens at Versailles, which he devised for Louis XIV, Le Nôtre worked at Saint-Cloud for the king's brother, the duc d'Orléans. In both settings he used similar formal elements: reflecting pools, fountains, symmetrically placed urns and statuary, and massive blocks of clipped shrubbery bordering long axial vistas.
Among the devices that Le Nôtre employed is a kind of forced perspective, created by using progressively smaller blocks of greenery as the vista recedes from the viewer, thus giving the impression that the distance is greater than it actually is. An analagous effect is visible in Atget's photograph. (The illusion of distance is furthered by the fact that the ground falls away at the end of the prospect, where the château once stood.) As Le Nôtre also intended, the reflections in the pool emphasize the perspective. Atget has capitalized on these effects but infused the formal arrangement with dynamism by placing his camera away from the central axis and capturing the irregular shapes of the masses of unclipped vegetation. The statues that lead the procession into the distance, of Diana and Apollo, are now to be found in the Louvre.
Originally published in Eugène Atget, In Focus: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum by Gordon Baldwin (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2000), 62. ©2000, J. Paul Getty Trust.
Adams, William Howard. Atget's Gardens: A Selection of Eugène Atget's Garden Photographs, introduction by Jacqueline Onassis (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1979), fig. 25 and cover.
Szarkowski, John and Maria Morris Hambourg. The Work of Atget. 4 vols. (New York: Museum of Modern Art; Boston: Distributed by New York Graphic Society, 1981-1985) vol. 3, pl. 88, for date.
Baldwin, Gordon. In Focus: Eugène Atget: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2000), pl. 28.