Cabaret de l'Homme Armé, 25 rue des Blancs-Manteaux
Eugène Atget (French, Libourne 1857–1927 Paris)
Eugène Atget, a pioneer of documentary photography, was born 12 February 1857 in Libourne, France. His father, carriage builder died when he was five years old, and mother died shortly after. In Paris, in 1878, he was drafted for military service and was expelled from drama school because he could attend class only part-time. He became an actor with a traveling group, performing in the Paris suburbs. Later he gave up acting because of an infection of his vocal cords and took up painting in a province without success. In 1888 he took his first photographs. In 1890, Atget moved back to Paris and became a professional photographer, selling his works to artists: studies for painters, architects, and stage designers. It was not until 1897 that Atget started a project he would continue for the rest of his life: Old Paris. Atget photographed Paris with a large-format wooden camera with a rapid rectilinear lens. The images were exposed and developed as 18x24cm glass dry plates. While being a photographer Atget still also called himself an actor, giving lectures and readings. Starting in 1898, institutions such as the Musée Carnavalet and the Bibliothèque Historique de la Ville de Paris bought his photographs and commissioned him to systematically photograph old buildings in Paris. In 1920–21, he sold thousands of his negatives to institutions. Financially independent, he took up photographing the parks of Versailles, Saint-Cloud, and Sceaux and produced a series of photographs of prostitutes. Atget had published almost no work before "his genius was first recognized" by Man Ray and Berenice Abbott, two young American photographers working in Paris at the time. When Berenice Abbott reportedly asked him if the French appreciated his art, he responded, "No, only young foreigners." His death went largely unnoticed at the time outside the circle of curators who had bought his albums and kept them interred, mostly unseen. Atget never said or wrote anything about his work, thus leaving no artistic statements.
After the Paris exposition of 1889, France gloried in her triumph. The time between the expositions of 1889 and 1900 was an era of economic prosperity. When Germans announced they want to hold the next world expo, French politicians, industrialists, and intellectuals realized that the country which hosted the exposition at the threshold of the new century "will define the philosophy and express the synthesis of the 19th century." Participating nations architects were given complete freedom to construct their national pavilions in any style, and display whatever they wished therein. The sole limit was the space assigned to each. The buildings of the 1900 exposition fall into two distinct categories, each representing an essential element of the spirit of 1900: Traditionalist 19th century-styled and Art Nouveau - the new style appropriate to the twentieth century. The pavilion to symbolize the new era was the Palace of Electricity. Many expositions gave visitors an illusory trip to remote lands. The Trans-Siberian was a simulated Peking to Moscow railway and "Tour of the World," located at the base of the Eiffel Tower featured moving canvas of the sights and people throughout the world. More than 83,000 exhibitors and attendance of 51 million visitors made it the largest of any exposition. The 127 congresses had attracted over 80,000 participants. The Gare d'Orsay railroad station (now the Musée d'Orsay), and two of original entrances of Paris Métro stations by Hector Guimard., and the Pont d’Alexandre, the Grand Palais and the Petit Palais opened with the exposition. The exposition Universelle of 1900 was the last of its kind held in France.