The J. Paul Getty Museum

Chiffonier

Object Details

Title:

Chiffonier

Artist/Maker:

Eugène Atget (French, 1857 - 1927)

Culture:

French

Place:

France (Place Created)

Date:

1899–1901

Medium:

Albumen silver print

Object Number:

90.XM.127.4

Dimensions:

22.2 × 18.1 cm (8 3/4 × 7 1/8 in.)

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Object Description

The man who pulls this cart of bundled rags and trash has consented to pose for Eugène Atget but eyes him distrustfully, wondering perhaps why the photographer has chosen him to become the subject for the camera. Because Atget made four or so images of petits métiers at this location, at least three all on the same day, maybe it was explained to the ragpicker and the others that the artist was making a series of pictures of street tradespeople, and his sitters met him by appointment. (It is highly unlikely that Atget simply waited for appropriate subjects to pass by and that on one lucky day three or four appeared.) If sittings were prearranged, then might the subjects also have been paid? Perhaps not in this case, as the ragpickers, these untouchables in the class system, were notoriously independent and proud. In addition, Atget in 1901 was not rich. However he came here, the ragpicker did not trouble to shave and wears his ordinary work clothing. As has been pointed out by photo historian Maria Morris Hambourg, it is not the person but the trade that is being portrayed. Hence Atget did not tell the model to turn his head to free half his face from deep shadow. Nor did Atget make any attempt to show the surroundings—the background is wholly out of focus. It was enough to place the ragpicker in the street and carefully position him so that he and his crude two-wheeled cart, its cargo tied in place, filled the frame.

Fulfilling Atget's intention for the employment of his photographs, this image was used not only as one in a series of postcards (see entry for 94.XM.108.4 and an example of the actual postcards) but also as the model for a wood engraving by Jacques Beltrand (1874-1977). See 90.XM.64.80, 90.XM.64.24 and 94.XM.108.4 for examples of Atget’s of street tradespeople. See 94.XM.108.6 and 90.XM.46.4 for an example of a ragpicker’s home.

Originally published in Eugène Atget, In Focus: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum by Gordon Baldwin (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2000), 24. ©2000, J. Paul Getty Trust.

Provenance
Provenance
- 1990

Fernand Aronne Levi (Monaco), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1990.

Exhibitions
Exhibitions
Atget's Magical Analysis: Photographs 1915-1927 (October 29, 1991 to January 5, 1992)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), October 29, 1991 to January 5, 1992
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 Worker (November 3, 2009 to March 21, 2010)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), November 3, 2009 to March 21, 2010
Impressionism in the Age of Industry: Monet, Pissarro and more (February 16 to May 5, 2019)
  • Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto), February 16 to May 5, 2019
Bibliography
Bibliography

The Man in the Street: Eugene Atget in Paris, exh. brochure (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2000), fig. 4.

Baldwin, Gordon. In Focus: Eugène Atget: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2000), pl. 8.

Shields, Caroline, ed. Impressionism in the Age of Industry, exh. cat. (Toronto: Art Gallery of Ontario; Munich: DelMonico Books/Prestel, 2019), p. 192.