Avant-Garde Photos from MoMA at the Jeu de Paume

German-born, Switzerland-based Thomas Walther was an avid photographer. Some 230 photographs from his collection, acquired by MoMA in New York, are now on display at the Jeu de Paume museum in Paris.
Kate Steinitz, Backstroke, 1930. © The Museum of Modern Art, New York

From Bauhaus and Surrealism masterpieces to Soviet photography, the Thomas Walther Collection includes emblematic images of the first half of the 20th century, such as this photo of Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, taken by Berenice Abbott in 1936. This major figure of documentary photography in the United States worked as an assistant in Man Ray’s Parisian studio in the 1920s, and was fascinated by architecture and the changing urban landscape.

Berenice Abbott, Fifth Avenue, Nos. 4, 6, 8, Manhattan, 1936. © Estate of Berenice Abbott/The Museum of Modern Art, New York

These testimonies from the USSR to the streets of New York mark the invention of modern photography. George Hoyningen-Huene’s portrait of Henri Cartier-Bresson captures the idea of a new, faster, and more mobile artist, a sniper capable of immortalizing a world in too much of a hurry.

John Gutmann, Class (Olympic High Diving Champion Marjorie Gestring), 1935. © The Museum of Modern Art, New York/Scala, Florence
George Hoyningen-Huene, Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1935. © George Hoyningen-Huene Estate Archives/The Museum of Modern Art, New York

Through the avant-garde vision of these artists, this exhibition invites us to explore Europe turned upside down by the wars, and America as a land of exile for most of them during this troubled period. Because photography, this mobile, fast, and instantaneous art is driven by a universal grammar and a language without borders. A beautiful revolution.

Les chefs-d’œuvre photographiques du MoMA – La collection Thomas Walther
September 14, 2021, through February 13, 2022
Jeu de Paume, Paris

Max Burchartz, Lotte (Eye), 1928. © The Museum of Modern Art, New York/ADAGP, Paris/Artists Rights Society, New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Alvin Langdon Coburn, The Octopus, 1909. © George Eastman House/The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Aleksandre Rodtchenko, Girl with a Leica, 1932-33. © The Museum of Modern Art, New York/ADAGP, Paris