These Incredible Photos Show Parisian Life In The Early 20th Century

Photo: The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Abbott-Levy Collection. Partial gift of Shirley C. Burden

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York is currently featuring “Documents pour Artistes”, an exhibition of photos of Paris in the first quarter of the 20th century by French photographer Eugène Atget (1857–1927). The exhibit gets its name from the sign that used to hang outside Atget’s studio, which is testament to his ambition to create images for other artists to use as raw material for their own work. His photos offer glimpses into urban Paris, Parisian and rural courtyards, as well as “surrealist” photographs of mannequins, store windows, and street fairs that took the Paris avant-garde world by storm in the 1920s.


Not much is known about Atget himself, except that he was born near Bordeaux in 1857, and worked as a sailor, actor, and painter before turning to photography in the late 1890s, according to the National Gallery of Art, Washington.

(These photos are reprinted by permission of The Museum of Modern Art, where the photos are on show from February 6–April 9, 2012)

Cour, 41 rue Broca, 1912

Coin, Boulevard de la Chapelle et rue Fleury 76,18e, June 1921

Avenue des Gobelins, 1925

17 Rue du Petit-Pont, 1913

Cour, 7 rue de Valence, June 1922

Fête de Vaugirard, 1926

Fête du Trône, 1925

Luxembourg, 1923-25

Luxembourg, 1923-25

Luxembourg, 1902-03

Maison où Mourut Voltaire en 1778, 1 rue de Beaune, 1909

Marchand de paniers en fil de fer, 1899-1900

Parc de Sceaux, June 1925

Parc de Sceaux, mars, 8 h. matin, 1925

Parc de Sceaux, 7 h. matin, March 1925

Romanichels, groupe, 1912

Rue de la Montagne-Sainte-Geneviève, June 1925

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