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Staircase, Montmartre
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This image is available for download, without charge, under the Getty's Open Content Program.

Eugène Atget
French, Montmartre, 1924
Albumen print
8 9/16 x 7 in.
90.XM.124.1

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Historians have suggested that the solitary tree served as a kind of self-portrait in Eugène Atget's photographs. Trees were a favorite subject of the reclusive and private photographer, and they appear often as silent witnesses in his views of Paris and its environs. In a busy architecture study such as this one, the lone, winter-bare tree dominates the composition, its branches drawn carefully on the blank slate of sky. The old neighborhood's bleak textures of mildew, decaying wood and plaster, and scarred stone fill three-quarters of the frame, while the few signs of nature, such as the tree and the modest garden of the house at the left, hold forth a promise of seasonal renewal.