Fifth Avenue, Nos. 4, 6, 8
Berenice Abbott American
In 1929, after eight years in Paris, Abbott returned to America, bringing with her an immense collection of photographs by Eugène Atget and the ideas of European modernist photographers. Her first pictures of New York show the modernist influence in the sharply angled viewpoints and tendency toward abstraction. By the mid-1930s, however, Atget emerged as the stronger influence, as Abbott's style became more straightforward and documentary.
In 1935 Abbott embarked on a series documenting New York funded by the Federal Art Project, and during the next four years she made hundreds of images of the city's monuments and architecture. Ninety-seven of these, including "Fifth Avenue, Nos. 4, 6, 8," were published in "Changing New York" (1939). The caption for this picture informs us that "No. 8 was once the home of the art collection which formed a part of the original Metropolitan Museum of Art." It was built in 1856 for John Taylor Johnston, president of the Central Railroad of New Jersey. A leading collector of American art, Johnston was a founder of The Met and was elected its first president in 1870.