Baudelaire photographed by Nadar

Baudelaire photographed by Nadar

To close

Title: Charles Baudelaire.

Author : NADAR (Gaspard Félix TOURNACHON, known as) (1820 - 1910)

Creation date : 1854

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Technique and other indications: photography

Storage location: Orsay Museum website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - H. Lewandowski

Picture reference: 91CE1041 / PHO 1988-30

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - H. Lewandowski

Publication date: March 2016

Historical context

Nadar, designer, caricaturist, journalist and novelist became one of the most popular photographers in the capital by opening a studio on rue Saint-Lazare in 1854. The works coming out of this workshop correspond to a first period of the photographer's career (until in 1861, the date on which he moved into luxurious salons at 35 boulevard des Capucines), during which he devoted himself to the theme of the “pantheon of contemporary artists and writers”. Among these several were close friends: Balzac, Daumier, Gautier, Nerval, Baudelaire [1]…

Image Analysis

Nadar uses here a process that he particularly likes to photograph Baudelaire, to which he had the greatest admiration. The plan is, in fact, relatively close, the layout simple and the pose natural unlike the current practices of other workshops of the time, where artifice and accessories were required.

Nadar only uses light to enhance the character of his friend. A light which gives it a surprising presence, a great expressiveness, and which allows to emphasize the elegance of this inveterate dandy that was Baudelaire (elegance that Nadar also underlined in his book Intimate Baudelaire.

As for the fuzzy aspect of the outline, it is found in another portrait of Baudelaire by Nadar, Baudelaire in the chair. It probably expresses the reveries in which the poet seems to have locked himself, but it also corresponds to the Baudelairean conception of the photographic portrait: “An exact portrait but having the blur of a drawing. "

Finally, the relatively large dimensions of this print (24x17.5 cm) contrast with the fashion for photography in business card format which then developed and whose success (due to its low cost) provided significant income to several workshops. of the capital (Disdéri, Mayer ...). Nadar refused to use this practice until 1861, when, in order to respond to a more efficient commercial strategy, he moved to Boulevard des Capucines


Under the Second Empire, photography workshops are a very popular social place. Most often, people come there to be portraited in the middle of exotic objects and in a conventional setting, photography thus taking over from engraving, printmaking or canvas to fix the features of a face. . The phenomenal multiplication of workshops between 1850 and 1860 testifies to the success of the new technique. Success increased by the invention of the photo-card, inexpensive, but the flaw of which was to erase the specificities of each under a strongly codified image. Bored by this commercial photography, Nadar delegates more and more to his assistants and lets himself be won over by a new passion, aeronautics. In 1870, he allowed Gambetta to leave Paris by balloon.

  • Baudelaire (Charles)
  • writers
  • Nadar (Tournachon Gaspard-Félix, aka)
  • photography
  • Balzac (Honoré de)
  • Gautier (Théophile)
  • Daumier (Honoré)
  • Nerval (Gérard de)


M.Frizot (dir.) New History of Photography Paris, Bordas, 1994 Collective, Nadar, Catalog of the exhibition of the Musée d'Orsay Paris, RMN, 1994.


1. Baudelaire has not yet caused a scandal with Les Fleurs du mal (1857).

To cite this article

Nadine FATTOUH-MALVAUD, "Baudelaire photographed by Nadar"

Video: NADAR le photographe des personnalités du XIXème siècle