Princeton University Art Museum Presents “Two Views: Atget & Friedlander”


Princeton University Art Museum Presents Two Views: Atget & Friedlander

From a Princeton University Art Museum press release:

Two Views: Atget & Friedlander examines the visual transmission and influence from one generation to another.

Headless mannequins, manure carts, telephone poles and side mirrors – these elements of the urban landscape both transcend and connect explorations of modern life by photographers from two distinct generations: Frenchman Eugène Atget (1857-1927) and American Lee Friedlander (born 1934). Peter C. Bunnell, photography curator emeritus at the Princeton University Art Museum and former curator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, guest curates a new examination of photographs, many of which have never been exhibited, from the Museum’s collections by these celebrated masters.

On view at the Princeton University Art Museum through March 10, 2013, Two Views: Atget & Friedlander features 48 photographs that demonstrate the ways in which Atget and Friedlander conveyed their observations of urban modernity. Both artists crafted compositions including street scenes, store fronts, and modern transport that reflect the trappings of their respective times – Atget working primarily from 1910 to 1927 and Friedlander in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.

“The exhibition seeks to reveal the qualities of the two photographers’ works and to demonstrate how visual influence is passed from one generation to another – how a tradition is both carried on and transformed,” said Bunnell.

The first part of the exhibition features sepia-toned photographs characteristic of Atget’s work in Paris, where he worked almost exclusively. There, he was known by his contemporaries not as a fine artist but as a provider of photographs purchased by artists, who used them as compositional models.

The exhibition then transitions to the work of Friedlander, whose indebtedness to Atget is immediately apparent. While Atget focused on a single urban center, however, Friedlander sought to examine the wholly distinctive American urban landscape by traveling throughout the country to cities as varied as Detroit, New Orleans, Hollywood, Cincinnati, Knoxville, and New York.

Two Views: Atget & Friedlander draws upon the photography collection at the Princeton University Art Museum, cultivated by Bunnell during his long tenure as curator of photography from 1972 to 2002. The provenance of many of the Atget photographs is an intriguing element of the exhibition, as they were acquired by Bernice Abbott, an American photographer living in Paris, who knew Atget. After Atget’s death, Abbott learned of a collection of 15,000 glass negatives and an estimated 3,000 prints that institutions in Paris were not interested in securing and that otherwise might have been discarded. The New York art dealer and gallerist Julien Levy helped Abbott procure and then transport the collection from Paris to New York, where it became known as the Abbott-Levy Collection. Many of the Atget photographs featured in Two Views were printed by Abbott in New York in the 1930s, from the negatives that she had rescued. The majority of the collection was sold to the Museum of Modern Art in 1968.  In 2004, the Friends of the Princeton University Art Museum acquired twenty Atget photographs for the Museum’s collection in honor of Bunnell.

The facts:
Princeton University Art Museum Presents Two Views: Atget & Friedlander
December 5, 2012 – March 10, 2013
The Princeton University Art Museum is located at the center of the Princeton University campus
609 258-3788

Photo above left and below:
Lee Friedlander, New Orleans, 1969. Gift of J. Michael Parish, Class of 1965, and Ellen Parish, on the occasion of the 250th Anniversary of Princeton University (1997-53). © Lee Friedlander, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

Eugène Atget, Carts, marché des patriarches, rue Moffetard, 1910. Museum purchase, gift of the Friends of the Princeton University Art Museum in honor of Peter C. Bunnell. Photo: Bruce M. White