Eugène Atget - Photographs New York Tuesday, April 4, 2023 | Phillips

  • As evidenced by the stamp on the verso, this print comes originally from the collection of photographer Berenice Abbott. Abbott, who lived and worked in Paris in the 1920s before beginning her signature series of photographs of New York City, befriended Eugène Atget in his final years, occasionally acquiring prints from him. After Atget’s death, Abbott saved Atget’s work from almost certain destruction by purchasing his archive of prints and negatives. It was through Abbott’s insistence that Atget’s work was shown in the Premiere Salon Indépendent de la Photographie in 1928, placing his photographs in the context of such contemporary photographers as Man Ray, Paul Outerbridge, André Kertész, and Abbott herself. Abbott believed deeply in the value of Atget’s oeuvre and it is largely through her efforts that his work was preserved and that he has entered the canon of great photographers.

    “I think a good dealer is also a collector.”
    —Rosa Esman

    Lots 283 through 303 in the present auction come from the collection of Rosa and Aaron Esman. The Esmans assembled an outstanding collection of Modern, Post-War, and Contemporary art and photography over the course of their seventy-year marriage. The collection’s highlights mirror that of Rosa’s career as a gallerist and art book publisher (which Aaron, a psychoanalyst, strongly supported), with interests in Modernism, Dada, Russian Constructivism, and American Pop Art taking center stage. Rosa got her start publishing artists’ books of prints in the 1960s, including the New York Ten Portfolio, 1965, and Ten for Leo Castelli, 1967, which featured works by rising contemporary artists such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Robert Rauschenberg, and helped pioneer the field of artist’s editions and multiples. Her eponymous gallery exhibited in Manhattan for over twenty years, and she was a founding partner of Ubu Gallery, which is still in operation today.


    When asked about her wide artistic tastes in 2009, Rosa emphasized her love of drawing, ‘the quintessential bit of the art,’ which can be seen across her and Aaron’s collection, regardless of genre. The importance of her and Aaron’s relationship to Rosa’s development as a consummate supporter of the arts, too, was paramount. The pair bonded over gallery visits when dating in the late 1940s, and bought their first artwork, a drawing by Miró, together; these early experiences with Aaron, more than anything else, established Rosa’s love for art. In her gallery days, Aaron’s passion for art helped decide which works stayed with the couple, too. Rosa recalled: ‘sometimes we look at something, and I say, “Oh, isn’t that marvelous?”’ and Aaron would respond, ‘It’s for us.’ Founded on lifelong love, the Collection of Rosa and Aaron Esman gives a unique vision of the art movements of the 20th century that shaped New York’s art scene.

    Rosa and Aaron Esman,  Madrid, 1963
    • Provenance

      Collection of the artist
      Collection of Berenice Abbott, Paris and New York
      The Museum of Modern Art, New York

Property from the Collection of Rosa and Aaron Esman


Rue St. Medard/Rue Gracieuse

circa 1900
Albumen print.
8 3/8 x 6 1/2 in. (21.3 x 16.5 cm)
'Photo E. Atget, Collection Berenice Abbott, 1 W. 67th St' stamp and numbered '6564,' likely by Abbott, in ink on the reverse of the mount.

Full Cataloguing

$3,000 - 5,000 

Sold for $5,080

Contact Specialist

Sarah Krueger
Head of Department, Photographs

Vanessa Hallett
Worldwide Head of Photographs and Chairwoman, Americas


New York Auction 4 April 2023