DePaul Art Museum > Exhibitions > Eugene Atget's Paris & Berenice Abbott's New York

Eugene Atget's Paris & Berenice Abbott's New York

April 5 – May 23, 1999

Eugene Atget’s Paris and Berenice Abbott’s New York represents two of the world's greatest cities during periods of dramatic change. French photographer Eugene Atget captured pre-World War I Paris before many of the city’s architectural splendors were lost to modernization and war. American-born photographer Berenice Abbott used her lens to preserve the physical changes of New York during the early 1930s. The exhibition comprises forty-one photographs, twenty from each photographer’s cityscape collection, and a portrait Abbott took of Atget days before his death in 1927.

Atget was an actor traveling in and around Paris in the late 19th century when he became acutely aware of the city’s physical transformation. In 1898 when construction of the Paris transit system caused the destruction of many buildings, Atget’s love of Paris inspired him to begin photographing the remaining historical sites. He used a large-format view camera and glass plate negatives, even after equipment and processing had been technologically improved.

Atget and Abbott's paths crossed in Paris when the latter was working as an assistant to noted artist Man Ray. Abbott has been quoted as saying that she was immediately struck by the "unadorned realism" of Atget's photographs. Abbott spent eight years in Paris, and on a visit to New York in 1929 was consumed by the desire to capture the physical change of the city. She had already established a name for herself as a photographer of Paris but had to struggle to make it in New York. Finally, in 1936, the Federal Arts Project approved her proposal for funding to complete her project entitled "Changing New York." In December of 1937, the Museum of the City of New York organized a comprehensive exhibition of 110 of Abbott's New York photographs.