Musée d'Orsay: Nadar


Félix NadarNadar, self-portrait© Musée d'Orsay, dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt
The exhibition covered the art of photographic portrait, of which Félix Nadar (1820-1910) was one of the great exponents in France from 1864 to 1865, and displayed mostly portraits of artists. Painters (Daubigny, Daumier, Delacroix), sculptors (Préault), writers (Dumas, Gautier, Janin, Michelet), poets (Baudelaire, Nerval), theatre comedians (Sarah Bernard, then at the beginning of her career), all were friends of this eminently public character.

Nadar's photographic portraits were easily recognisable from those of his many competitors by their simplicity, modernity and psychological insight which were in a large part the result of the privileged relationship he entertained with the artists. His remarkable use of light, silhouette and costume to highlight expression justified Nadar being compared at the time with Rembrandt and Van Dyck. Yet, after 1860, he stopped being interested in photographic art and took up a passion for aircrafts, while continuing to develophis inventions in the field of photography : aerial photography, artificial light photography (photographs of the catacombs and the sewers in Paris in 1860).

Made up from 150 original prints, often unique and of a high quality, unpublished or ill-known masterpieces, the exhibition made it possible to put an end to the confusion between the short but creative period of Nadar's own photography and that of the commercial workshop which was to be directed - not without misgivings on Nadar's part - by his son Paul from the late 1880's to the beginning until the 20th century.

exhibition organised with the support of La Hénim bank and Finagest


Françoise Heilbrun, chief curator, Musée d'Orsay, Maria Morris Hambourg, chief curator, photography department, Metropolitan Museum of Art and Philippe Néagu, curator, Musée d'Orsay


Exhibition catalogue
Yale University Press, New Haven

9 June - 11 September 1994
Musée d'Orsay

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