Paris Then and Now: Through the Lens of Eugène Atget

Wander the charming streets of turn-of-the-century Paris captured in Eugène Atget’s photographs, and discover how they look today.

Escalier, 25 rue des Blancs-Manteaux (1904) by Eugène AtgetThe J. Paul Getty Museum

Atget and Turn-of-the-Century Paris

Eugène Atget (1857–1927) was a groundbreaking photographer, documenting three decades of rapid urban transition in Paris from the late 19th to early 20th centuries.  His works depict the architecture, streets, gardens, and people of the city. 

This story explores Atget’s legacy, and what the locations of his iconic photographs look like today.

Boulevard de Bonne-Nouvelle (1926) by Eugène AtgetThe J. Paul Getty Museum

In his photographs, made using a heavy view camera (similar to this one), Atget bridged 19th-century technologies and sensibilities with modernist approaches to the urban environment.

Hôtel du Marquis d'Ecquevilly, 60 rue de Turenne (1901) by Eugène AtgetThe J. Paul Getty Museum

Rather than concentrate on celebrated monuments, such as the Eiffel Tower, Atget focused on the labyrinthine alleys of Paris, facades and architectural details, domestic interiors, and street vendors.

Boulevard de Strasbourg (1912) by Eugène AtgetThe J. Paul Getty Museum

Through his obsessive visual documentation of Paris and its environs, Atget invented new approaches to street photography and unlocked the genre’s potential for surreal poetry.

Hôtel des Ambassadeurs de Hollande, 47 rue Vieille-du-Temple (1898) by Eugène AtgetThe J. Paul Getty Museum

Then and Now

Atget photographed the entrance to this 17th-century mansion—home to aristocrats and state officials over the years—in the early morning, with not a passerby in sight.

The Baroque entrance portal, with sculptures by Thomas Regnaudin over the doors, still exists—with considerably more street art!

Cabaret, 10 rue du Four (1900) by Eugène AtgetThe J. Paul Getty Museum

When Atget captured this view of a bar on the street called Rue du Four in 1900, curlicued metal grates decorated the facade.

Today, the premises have been renovated, with floor-to-ceiling glass windows—though the Rue du Four remains a spot to wine and dine.

Rue du Chevalier de la Barre (1923) by Eugène AtgetThe J. Paul Getty Museum

From the Rue du Chevalier de la Barre, Atget captured this view of the Basilica Sacré Coeur in Montmartre, which was a popular subject for artists, as evidenced by the easel in the front left. 

You can witness the exact same view of the basilica today, from a modern-day addition: an Irish bar called Bar Virgule!

Ancien Charnier Saint-Gervais-Saint-Protais, rue François Miron (1900) by Eugène AtgetThe J. Paul Getty Museum

When Atget captured this moody photograph next to the Church of Saint Gervais and Saint Protais, the church (visible on the left) housed a mortuary, with iron grates protecting the windows.

Today, we can travel to the street Atget entered to make his foreboding photograph. The Church of Saint-Gervais-Saint-Protais still stands around the corner, with the back lane Atget photographed hidden from view.

Ancien Collège de Chanac, 12 rue de Bièvre (1900) by Eugène AtgetThe J. Paul Getty Museum

Here, a young girl smiles into Atget’s camera from a balcony, next to a bas-relief (a carved sculpture on a flat, shallow plane) of Saint Michael slaying a dragon.

The sculpture and arched entrance still exist, as seen here on a gray winter’s day.

Saint-Cloud (1922) by Eugène AtgetThe J. Paul Getty Museum

In addition to documenting the ornate facades and cobblestoned streets of Paris, Atget frequently photographed parks in and near the city, such as Parc de Saint-Cloud. 

The urn sculptures which Atget captured still decorate this park’s pond.

Versailles (1922) by Eugène AtgetThe J. Paul Getty Museum

When Atget photographed this sculpture of Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture, in Versailles, the marble was weather-worn from its outdoor location.

Today, the original sculpture is housed in the collections of the Petite Écurie, while a replica stands in another part of Versailles’ gardens, gleaming in the sunlight. 

Credits: Story

© 2023 J. Paul Getty Trust, Los Angeles

To cite this exhibition, please use: "Atget: Then and Now" published online in 2023 via Google Arts & Culture, the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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