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Tree Roots, Saint-Cloud
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Eugène Atget
French, Saint-Cloud, negative 1906, print 1920s
Albumen print
8 3/4 x 6 3/4 in.
90.XM.64.25

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Eugène Atget's masterful composition of sinuous tree roots exploits the rich graphic properties inherent in an organic subject. Located at the foot of a wall in the old royal park of Saint-Cloud outside Paris, this site offered a study of interwoven organic textures: wood, stone, moldering leaves, and earth. This is one of the first photographs Atget made of tree roots, a subject that was highly unusual at a time when most images resembled what one photographer called "the worst arty pictorials that existed anywhere." One critic berated Atget's French contemporaries for trying "to make their photographs look like paintings or charcoal drawings. . . ." While this unexpected image resembles neither a painting nor a drawing, it would have been quite fitting as a source of Art Nouveau imagery, a style that was then flourishing in France.