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Maker(s):Nadar (Gaspard Felix Tournachon); Nadar, Paul
Culture:French (Gaspard Felix Tournachon 1820 - 1910) (Paul Nadar 1856 - 1939)
Title:Victor Hugo on His Deathbed
Date Made:1885
Materials:carbon print on paper
Place Made:France
Measurements:mount: 12 1/8 x 14 15/16 in.; 30.7975 x 37.9413 cm; sheet/image: 7 3/4 x 9 13/16 in.; 19.685 x 24.9238 cm
Accession Number:  SC 1989.13
Credit Line:Purchased with the gift of the Smith College Museum of Art Visiting Committee in honor of Charles Chetham
Museum Collection:  Smith College Museum of Art

half-length view of a reclining old man with beard propped on a pillow facing toward the right

Label Text:
Photography ensured that the death of a public figure was never entirely a private affair. The celebrated French author Victor Hugo was attended by many artists who were at his bedside when he died. Nadar’s portrait of Victor Hugo was staged: a dark curtain was placed behind the subject and mirror was used to cast shadows, creating a more affecting contrast and mood.

Photography was still a developing medium that was slowly gaining more technical flexibility and artistic credibility. While the first photographic portraits had been perceived to be “poor man’s” paintings, in time photography gained recognition as an art form in itself. This was partly due to photographers like Nadar, whose theatrically staged portraits convinced people of the many new possibilities of the medium.

deaths; historical figures; literature; portraits; men; writing

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