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'corsets' (boulevard de strasbourg)

  • USA
  • 2014-12-12
Printing-out-paper print, numbered '379' in the negative, titled and numbered '379' in pencil and with the photographer's 'Rue Campagne-Première, 17 bis' studio stamp, annotated '17 bis' in pencil, on the reverse, 1912
This photograph comes originally from the collection of Tristan Tzara (1895-1963), poet, writer, and a founding father of the Dada movement in Zurich.  Tzara likely encountered Atget’s work in the 1920s, while living near the photographer’s studio on rue Campagne-Première.  Tzara would also undoubtedly have seen the Atget photographs reproduced in a famous 1926 issue of La Révolution Surréaliste, André Breton’s definitive Surrealist journal of the era. Atget’s photographs, promoted by him as ‘Documents pour Artistes,’ were re-contextualized by the Parisian avant-garde, who saw in his images of Paris’s changing landscape, architecture, and street vendors, an unselfconscious, ‘automatic’ vision.   Man Ray, for instance, who also maintained a studio on rue Campagne-Première, met Atget in the mid-1920s and acquired a number of his photographs, images that Man Ray later described as having ‘a Dada or Surrealist quality about them’ (Looking At Atget, p. 54).  Among the Atget photographs that Man Ray and his fellow Surrealists favored were images of shop fronts, window reflections, and headless mannequins, as in the image offered here.  Three of Atget’s photographs were published without credit in the above-mentioned 1926 issue of La Révolution Surréaliste, including Corsets (Boulevard de Strasbourg), which illustrated Marcel Noll’s account of an erotically-charged dream.
The Corsets image continued to be seen in a Surrealist context after Atget’s death.  A print was exhibited in 1929 in the avant-garde Film und Foto exhibition in Stuttgart and appeared as the first plate in the accompanying book Foto-Auge.  In 1936, New York gallerist Julien Levy included Corsets in his seminal volume Surrealism.

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