The J. Paul Getty Museum

[Self-Portrait]

Object Details

Title:

[Self-Portrait]

Artist/Maker:

Nadar [Gaspard Félix Tournachon] (French, 1820 - 1910)

Culture:

French

Place:

Paris, France (Place Created)

Date:

about 1855

Medium:

Salted paper prints from glass negatives

Object Number:

84.XM.436.2

Dimensions:

20.5 × 17 cm (8 1/16 × 6 11/16 in.)

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Object Description

Before he dedicated himself to photography in the early 1850s, Nadar was—as he tells us in his autobiography of circa 1900—a poacher, a smuggler, a bureaucratic functionary, and a fighter for the cause of the Polish liberation. Nadar was the nickname Gaspard-Félix Tournachon used in the late 1840s to sign his stinging lithographic caricatures. While his drawing depended on bold exaggeration for their success, his photographs are marked by a spontaneous naturalism.

Nadar made numerous photographic self-portraits, which allowed him to experiment with poses, gestures, and lighting before turning the camera on his illustrious subjects. Gentle light falls from above, leaving the right side of his face in partial darkness. The writer Charles Baudelaire's homage, "Nadar, the most astonishing expression of vitality," applies easily to the intense young man gazing coyly but self-assuredly through heavily shadowed eyes at a point just above the lens of his own camera.

Perhaps Nadar was merely looking at an assistant helping to make the exposure, but he clearly intended to project an image of himself as the intense, Romantic artist. His left hand braces his body against the chair, while his right hand, cradling his chin and holding up his head, echoes the gesture of his left to create pictorial balance.

This photograph was taken at mid-career; Nadar was already a celebrated writer, caricaturist, and portrait photographer. He was thus free to play with self-representation, exploring the many personas that made up a complex and talented man.
Adapted from getty.edu, Interpretive Content Department, 2008; and Weston Naef, The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Photographs Collection (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1995), 55, © 1995 The J. Paul Getty Museum.

For more information about the artist and this work, see:
Begley, Adam. The Great Nadar: The Man Behind the Camera. New York: Tim Duggan Books, 2017.
Nadar. When I Was A Photographer Eduardo Cadava and Liana Theodoratu. Boston: MIT Press, 2015.

Provenance
Provenance
-1984

Samuel Wagstaff, Jr., American, 1921 - 1987, sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1984.

Exhibitions
Exhibitions
Self Portrait Photography 1840 - 1985 (October 3, 1986 to January 11, 1987)
  • National Portrait Gallery (Washington D.C.), October 3, 1986 to January 11, 1987
The Flowering of Early French Photography, 1840-1870 (April 28 to June 28, 1987)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), April 28 to June 28, 1987
The Flowering of Early French Photography: Selections from the J. Paul Getty Museum Collection (December 20, 1988 to May 7, 1989)
  • The Baltimore Museum of Art (Baltimore), December 20, 1988 to February 12, 1989
  • Toledo Museum of Art (Toledo), March 11 to May 7, 1989
Nadar (June 6, 1994 to July 9, 1995)
  • Musée d'Orsay (Paris), June 6 to September 11, 1994
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), April 3 to July 9, 1995
Nadar/Warhol: Paris/New York (July 20, 1999 to May 28, 2000)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), July 20 to October 10, 1999
  • The Andy Warhol Museum (Pittsburgh), November 6, 1999 to January 30, 2000
  • The Baltimore Museum of Art (Baltimore), March 12 to May 28, 2000
Photographers of Genius (March 16 to July 25, 2004)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), March 16 to July 25, 2004
Portraits of Renown: Photography and the Cult of Celebrity (April 3 to September 2, 2012)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), April 3 to September 2, 2012
Real / Ideal: Photography in France, 1847-1860 (August 30 to November 27, 2016)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), August 30 to November 27, 2016
Bibliography
Bibliography

Nadar/Warhol: Paris/New York (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum), cover, above.

Corcoran Gallery of Art. A Book of Photographs from the Collection of Sam Wagstaff. (New York: Gray Press, 1978), p. 7.

Naef, Weston J. The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Photographs Collection (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1995), p. 55, ill. no. 52.

Baldwin, Gordon, and Judith Keller. Nadar Warhol: Paris New York: Photography and Fame. Introduction by Richard Brilliant. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1999), p. 128.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Collections. 7th ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2007), p. 292, ill.

Hellman, Karen, ed. Real/Ideal: Photography in Mid-Nineteenth-Century France, exh. cat. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2016), fig. 41.

History of Photography, 41, no 2 (May 2017), Jillian Lerner, "Nadar's signatures: Caricature, Self-Portrait, Publicity", p. 112, fig. 4.

Education Resources
Education Resources

Education Resource

Subjects

Grades

Format

Photography and Choreography

Lesson in which students engage in visual and written activities that support the creative process of choreographing a solo dance composition.

Visual Arts; Dance

9-12

Three/Five-Part Lesson