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Israel Museum Receives Major Gift of Two Hundred Photographs by Eugene Atget

The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, announced the acquisition of 200 photographs by the pioneering French documentary photographer Eugène Atget (1857 – 1927), gifted by Pamela and George Rohr, New York, and an anonymous donor, New York. These works add an important new dimension to the Museum’s exceptional photography holdings, encompassing over 55,000 works from the earliest days of photography to contemporary times.

Hôtel, 1 rue des Prouvaires et 54 rue Saint-Honoré (1912), Eugene Atgét, courtesy of the Israel Museum

Seventy of these newly gifted works will be presented in Eugène Atget: As Paris Was, an exhibition at Ticho House, the Israel Museum’s historic venue in downtown Jerusalem, featuring Atget’s images of Paris from the mid-1890s until 1927. Marking the first ever presentation of the photographer’s work in Israel, the exhibition is curated by Nissan Perez, Horace and Grace Goldsmith Senior Curator in the Museum’s Noel and Harriette Levine Department of Photography.

French photographer Eugène Atget is recognized internationally for his integral role in the canon of documentary photography. After working as a sailor, actor, and painter for almost thirty years, he embarked on a self-assigned mission to document French life, culture, and history in and around Paris. He chose houses, streets, parks, and castles as his subjects, capturing interior and exterior details of architecture being transformed by modernity. Without any official recognition, this enterprise yielded a massive visual compendium of nearly 10,000 photographs that Atget loosely designated as “documents pour artistes” (documents for artists), created by means of anachronistic technology and an antiquated camera.

“We are deeply grateful to our donors for this generous gift of so important a trove of works by Eugène Atget, a pivotal figure in the history of photography,” said James S. Snyder, Anne and Jerome Fisher Director of the Israel Museum. “We are proud to be sharing Atget’s unique vision with Israeli audiences for the first time and in the resonant setting of our historic Ticho House, which also juxtaposes turn-of-the-last century Jerusalem with its encroaching modernity.”

“Atget’s photographs of Paris, including those featured in Eugène Atget: As Paris Was, do not depict the city as a bustling modern metropolis,” said exhibition curator Nissan Perez. “He trained his lens on the older, often decaying buildings and parks. The scenes he captured, mostly devoid of human presence, express desolation and solitude, reminiscent of an empty stage awaiting the actors’ entrance.” –

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