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Photographic Portraiture in the 19th Century

This photograph depicts an older man wearing a three piece suit sitting facing the camera.

Sir David Brewster
1841 - 1842
salted paper print | paper
Museum Purchase made possible by the Friends of the Museum of Art
1988/1.135
American
Portrait of a Young Woman
1850 - 1899
tintype | small gilted frame
Estate of Professor Arthur Lyon Cross
1940.399
American
Portrait of a Young Man
1850 - 1899
tintype | small gilted frame
Estate of Professor Arthur Lyon Cross
1940.398
Three-quarter length portrait of a bearded man in military apparel.

William D. Porter
1862 - 1864
albumen print | paper
Gift of Dr. Seymour and Barbara K. Adelson
2008/2.196.12
Bust-length portrait of bearded man in a suit floating amid a blank background. 

W.M. Belknap, Secretary of War
1869 - 1876
albumen print | paper
Gift of Dr. Seymour and Barbara K. Adelson
2008/2.196.19
Seated, half-length portrait of a bearded man in a military uniform. 

Lysander Cutler, Brig. Gen. and Bv't. Maj. Gen. Vols. U.S.A.
1862 - 1865
albumen print | paper
Gift of Dr. Seymour and Barbara K. Adelson
2008/2.196.26
Three-quarter length portrait of a mustachioed man in a military uniform with one hand tucked into his coat breast. 

M. Haxtun, Lieut. Comdo., U.S.N.
1861 - 1865
albumen print | paper
Gift of Dr. Seymour and Barbara K. Adelson
2008/2.196.6
Three-quarter length portrait of a man in a military uniform.

Admiral George W. Storer
1862 - 1864
albumen print | paper
Gift of Dr. Seymour and Barbara K. Adelson
2008/2.196.8
Full-length portrait of a man in military uniform in an interior studio space. 

Commander Robert H. Wyman
1862 - 1865
albumen print | paper
Gift of Dr. Seymour and Barbara K. Adelson
2008/2.196.10
Bust-length portrait of a mustachioed man in a military uniform.
Charles DeForest Fredricks
Charles G. Halpine, Major, A.A.G., and Bv't. Brig. Gen. Vols., U.S.A.
1861 - 1865
albumen print | paper
Gift of Dr. Seymour and Barbara K. Adelson
2008/2.196.3
Full-length, standing portrait of a man in a military uniform.

Commodore Foote
1861 - 1865
albumen print | paper
Gift of Dr. Seymour and Barbara K. Adelson
2008/2.196.17
Half-length seated portrait of a bearded man in a military uniform.

Admiral Andrew Hull Foote
1862 - 1865
albumen print | paper
Gift of Dr. Seymour and Barbara K. Adelson
2008/2.196.5

PHOTOGRAPHIC PORTRAITURE IN THE 19TH CENTURY

This Resource looks at the first instances of the use of photography, rather than painting, for portraiture. Not only was this format cheaper, but it was more immediate and easily reproducible than its historical counterpart. The development of early photography was rapid and changes in the medium happened quickly—from the use of glass daguerreotypes to albumen prints on paper. Some photographic portraits were mounted on cards known by their French name, carte-de-visite. These were like early calling cards that immediately became collector’s items. At the same time, photography began to be used for ethnographic documentation of “natives” and “primitives.” Our collection has a particularly strong group of photographs of American Indians taken in the 19th century.

This collection can be used to consider a number of contemporary topics about presentations and representations of the 19th​-century “self” in multiple valances: wealth, station, military office, ethnicity, dress, gender, modernity, etc.



Nadar (Gaspard-Félix Tournachon), Alexander Dumas (père), ca. 1855, UMMA 1976/2.12

Work Description

This carte-de-visite depicts the French dramatist and author, Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870). Early in his life, he was a dramatist and most well known for his novels: The Count of Monte Cristo (1844-45) and The Three Musketeers (1844). This photograph was taken by celebrated French photographer Nadar, originally as a model for his epic caricature print titled PantéonNadar (1820-1910) began his portrait studio, just about the time this photograph of Dumas was taken, when he realized that photography could help accommodate his busy sitters. This portrait of Dumas is an albumen print, a relatively new photographic technique invented in 1850, in which the image is created as a negative that is then transferred to a sheet of paper. This process allowed for unlimited printings and made possible the production of the so-called carte-de-visites. The cards of famous personalities took on the cachet of baseball cards, something to be collected and traded.

Related Article

Anne McCauley, “Caricature and Photography in Second Empire Paris,” Art Journal, vo. 43, no. 4 (winter 1983), p. 355-360.

Article Discussion Questions

  • According to McCauley, how does the status of photography change over the period of the Second Empire in France?
  • What effects does the new medium of photography have on the idea of portraiture?
  • What kinds of social questions are brought up in the early subject matter of photographic portraiture, according to McCauley?

Further Reading

Ann Cvetkovich, “Histories of Mass Culture: From Literary to Visual Culture,” in Victorian Literature and Culture, vol. 27, no. 2 (1999), p. 495-499.

Beatrix Heintze, “In Pursuit of a Chameleon: Early Ethnographic Photography from Angola in Context,” in History of Africa, vol. 17 (1990), p. 131-156.

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Portraits — by seth@whirl-i-gig.com (February 13 2017 @ 12:50 pm)

Part of 1 Learning Collection

American Orientalist art at the turn of the 20th century
<p>America Encounters Asia in Art</p>

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Last Updated

January 25, 2019 12:33 p.m.

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