Two Views: Atget & Friedlander

Exhibition examines the visual transmission and influence from one generation to another

PRINCETON, NJ - 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.

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“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. 


About Peter C. Bunnell

Peter C. Bunnell is the McAlpin Professor of the History of Photography and Modern Art Emeritus at Princeton University. This chair, established in 1972, is the nation's first endowed professorship of the history of photography. From 1973 to 1978 he was also director of the Princeton University Art Museum and from 1998 to 2000 he served as acting director. Bunnell retired from Princeton in 2002. Prior to coming to the University in 1972, he was curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He held a similar curatorship during his thirty years at Princeton, where he was responsible for securing for Princeton the Clarence White collection and the Minor White archive. In 1998, in celebration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the photography collection, Bunnell edited the volume Photography at Princeton, a work highlighting 125 masterworks from the Museum’s photography holdings as well as a full history and documentation of the collection.

Bunnell is the author of Minor White: The Eye That Shapes, a catalogue that accompanied the major retrospective exhibition of White's photographs that opened at the Museum of Modern Art in 1989 and toured to six other museums. The Eye That Shapes won the prestigious George Wittenborn Memorial Award of the Art Libraries Society of North America. In 1993, Cambridge University Press published his Degrees of Guidance, a collection of essays on twentieth-century American photography. In 2012, Bunnell served as editor for Aperture Magazine Anthology: The Minor White Years, 1952-1976 – a collection of the best critical writing from the first twenty-five years of Aperture, published on the occasion of the magazine’s sixtieth anniversary.



About the Princeton University Art Museum

Founded in 1882, the Princeton University Art Museum is one of the leading university art museums in the country. From the founding gift of a collection of porcelain and pottery, the collections have grown to more than 72,000 works of art that range from ancient to contemporary art and concentrate geographically on the Mediterranean regions, Western Europe, China, the United States, and Latin America.

Committed to advancing Princeton’s teaching and research missions, the Art Museum serves as a gateway to the University for visitors from around the world. The Museum is intimate in scale yet expansive in scope, offering a respite from the rush of daily life, a  revitalizing experience of extraordinary works of art, and an opportunity to delve deeply into the study of art and culture.

The Princeton University Art Museum is located at the heart of the Princeton campus, a short walk from the shops and restaurants of Nassau Street. Admission is free. Museum hours are Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday 1 to 5 p.m. The Museum is closed Mondays and major holidays.


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