Atget’s Escher


Eugène Atget, Escalier 25 rue des Blancs-Manteaux, 1903-04 (2008.112.21)

Eugène Atget (1857-1927) was a none-too-successful actor and painter before he became a photographer in the late 1880s. He focused on documenting Paris and its surroundings, for a while specializing in old Paris as it was disappearing during his lifetime. He made a living selling prints of his meticulous and prodigious production of photographs of courtyards, doors, streets, houses, stairs, and other ornamental decorations. His clients were mostly artists, architects, decorators, publishers, libraries, and museums. Only posthumously did the Frenchman became recognized  as an artist rather then solely a maker of useful documents.

The motif of Escalier 25 rue des Blancs-Manteaux, located in the 4th Arrondissement in the Marais neighborhood of Paris, is a narrow and ancient staircase. Its perspective brings to mind M. C. Escher’s impossible architectural drawings, though in this case it is the play of light and shadow that gives the subject an almost surreal appearance.

Alp Klanten, ICP-Bard 2013

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