An innovative photographer, Nadar (1820-1910)–born Gaspard-Félix Tournachon–mastered the new technology of wet collodion plate and salt print processes to become one of the most sought-after portrait photographers of his time. Nadar captured likenesses of celebrities such as composers Claude Debussy and Franz Liszt, and writers Alexandre Dumas and George Sand. He also adapted his process to become the first aerial photographer, often working from his custom hot air balloon, Le Géant.
The Museum’s portrait of Edmond Carcassonne, created around 1855, exemplifies Nadar’s portrait style. Rather than a heavily stylized, staged portrait setting, Nadar eliminated superfluous sets and props in an intimate view that captures his persona as well as his appearance. While we know little about Carcassonne, he appears fastidiously groomed yet relaxes into a familiar pose and offers a partial smile. He holds a monocle in his right hand, perhaps to symbolize his educated status.