Eugène Atget - The Eye That Shapes: Further Selections from the Peter C. Bunnell Collection New York Wednesday, January 25, 2023 | Phillips
  • The remarkable selection of photographs offered in this online auction comes from the collection of Peter C. Bunnell (1937-2021), the pioneering curator, teacher, and photographic historian. All lots are sold with No Reserve and the proceeds will be distributed to six institutions with whom Bunnell was associated — Rochester Institute of Technology, Ohio University, Yale University, The George Eastman Museum, The Museum of Modern Art, and Princeton University Art Museum — to establish endowments to support the study of photographic history. 


    As evidenced by the stamps on their versos, these prints come originally from the collection of photographer Berenice Abbott who printed them from Atget’s original negatives in the late 1920s or early 1930s. 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. After Atget’s death, Abbott saved his 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 photographs and it is largely through her efforts that his work was preserved and that he has entered the canon of great photographers. 


    Bunnell began his long career in photography as a student of Minor White’s at the Rochester Institute of Technology in the 1950s and was recruited by White to work on the seminal periodical of artistic photography, Aperture. He joined the staff of The Museum of Modern Art in 1966 as a collection cataloguer, becoming Associate Curator and then Curator of Photography. At MoMA he curated the noteworthy exhibitions Photography as Printmaking (1968), Photography into Sculpture (1970), and the first retrospective of the work of Clarence H. White (1971). In 1972, he was hired as the inaugural David Hunter McAlpin Professor of the History of Photography and Modern Art at Princeton University.  


    Bunnell served as Director of the Princeton University Art Museum from 1973 to 1978, and as Acting Director from 1998 to 2000, while also being the Museum’s Curator of Photography throughout the entirety of his tenure. Bunnell built a broad-ranging collection of photographs at the Museum, the firsthand examination of which became a central element of the student experience in his classes and seminars. Bunnell also assembled a personal collection of photography over the course of his long career that reflects his vast and deep understanding of the medium. Begun in the 1950s, before photography galleries and dealers were commonplace, Bunnell’s collection is a deeply personal one, put together with a sense of joy and curiosity that includes both icons and lesser-known gems spanning the history of photography. 

    • Provenance

      Collection of Berenice Abbott, New York
      Collection of Peter C. Bunnell, Princeton, New Jersey

    • Literature

      Boutique d'articles pour hommes, illustrated:
      Internationale Ausstellung des Deutschen Werkbunds Film und Foto, 1929, p. 35
      Prestel, Atget: The Pioneer, p. 137
      Taschen, Eugène Atget: Paris, p. 167

    • Catalogue Essay

      The photographs included in this lot are as follows:

      Marché de La Madeleine, 1926-7
      Boutique d'articles pour hommes, 1910
      Journaux. Coin rue Mouffetard, 1912

The Eye That Shapes: Further Selections from the Peter C. Bunnell Collection


Lot offered with No Reserve

Selected Images of Paris

Three gelatin silver prints, printed by Berenice Abbott no later than 1935.
Each 9 x 6 1/2 in. (22.9 x 16.5 cm) or the reverse
Each with 'Photo E. Atget, Collection Berenice Abbott, 1 W. 67th Street' stamp and a Weyhe Gallery stamp on the reverse.

Full Cataloguing

$2,000 - 3,000 

Sold for $3,276

Contact Specialist

Christopher Mahoney

Senior International Specialist


Vanessa Hallett

Worldwide Head of Photographs and Deputy Chairwoman

The Eye That Shapes: Further Selections from the Peter C. Bunnell Collection

Online Auction 25 January - 1 February 2023