Cameron, Julia M.
Coburn, Alvin L.
Talbot,William H. Fox
Biography: pseudonym of GASPARD-FÉLIX TOURNACHON, French
writer, caricaturist, and photographer who is remembered primarily
for his photographic portraits, which are considered to be among
the best done in the 19th century.
As a young man, he studied medicine in Lyon, Fr., but, when his
father's publishing house went bankrupt in 1838, he was forced
to earn his own livelihood. He began to write newspaper articles
that he signed "Nadar." In 1842 Nadar settled in Paris
and began to sell caricatures to humour magazines.
By 1853, although he still considered himself primarily a caricaturist,
he had become an expert photographer and had opened a portrait
studio. Nadar's immediate success stemmed partly from his sense
of showmanship. He had the entire building that housed his studio
painted red and his name printed in gigantic letters across a
50-foot (15-metre) expanse of wall. The building became a local
landmark and a favourite meeting place of the intelligentsia of
Paris. When, in 1874, the painters later known as Impressionists
needed a place to hold their first exhibit, Nadar lent them his
gallery. He was greatly pleased by the storm the exhibit raised;
the notoriety was good for business.
In 1854 he completed his first "PanthéonNadar," a set
of two gigantic lithographs portraying caricatures of prominent
Parisians. When he began work on the second "Panthéon-Nadar,"
he made photographic portraits of the persons he intended to caricature.
His portraits of the illustrator Gustave Doré (c. 1855) and the
poet Charles Baudelaire (1855) are direct and naturally posed,
in contrast to the stiff formality of most contemporaneous portraits.
Other remarkable character studies are those of the writer Théophile
Gautier (c. 1855) and the painter Eugène Delacroix (1855).
Nadar was a tireless innovator. In 1855 he patented the idea
of using aerial photographs in mapmaking and surveying. It was
not until 1858, however, that he was able to make a successful
aerial photograph, the world's first, from a balloon. This led
Daumier to issue a satirical lithograph of Nadar photographing
Paris from a balloon. It was titled "Nadar Raising Photography
to the Height of Art."
Nadar remained a passionate aeronaut until he and his wife and
other passengers were injured in an accident in Le Géant, a gigantic
balloon he had built.
In 1858 he began to photograph by electric light, making a series
of photographs of Paris sewers. And, in 1886, he made the first
"photo interview," a series of 21 photographs of the
French scientist Eugène Chevreul in conversation. Each picture
was captioned with Chevreul's responses to Nadar's questions,
giving a vivid impression of the scientist's personality. Nadar
also wrote novels, essays, satires, and autobiographical works.
More on Felix Nadar:
- Felix Nadar
Excellent Site with several links to Nadar's Work on the Internet.
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