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FĂ©lix Tournachon, 1820-1910

Nationality: French
Date of Birth: 1820


Gaspard Félix Tournachon, known as Nadar, was a photographer, caricaturist and writer. He was the son of a publisher.


Tournachon's nickname, Nadar, derived from youthful slang, and became his professional signature. As a young man, he studied medicine in Lyon, but, when his father's publishing house went bankrupt in 1838, he was forced to earn his own livelihood, and began to write newspaper articles signed 'Nadar'. In 1842 Nadar settled in Paris and began to sell caricatures to humour magazines. His success in this field, where the identifying characteristic of a subject was reduced to a single distinct facet, enabled him to capture his subject's personality.

French author, balloonist, communard, entrepreneur and photographer, he was a friend of Baudelaire and Manet. Nadar opened his first photography studio in 1854, but he only practiced for six years. The address of his studio was rue d'Anjou, St Honoré 51, Paris. His many famous sitters were mostly his friends and acquaintances, '[a]ll the outstanding figures of [the] era - literary, artistic, dramatic, political, intellectual - have filed through his studio.' His curiosity led him beyond the studio into such uncharted locales as the catacombs and sewers, which he was one of the first persons to photograph using artificial light.

In October 1863, Baudelaire wrote a letter of introduction for Nadar to Whistler, when he was visiting London, hoping that Whistler would show him his most recent etchings (#13547). There are photographs by Nadar of 'Finette' and of Neva, youngest child of G. W. Whistler, in the Whistler collection (Special Collections, Glasgow University Library, Whistler PH1/6 and PH1/154).


'Nadar' (Obituaries), Times, London, 22 March 1910, p. 13; MacDonald, Margaret F., Susan Galassi, Aileen Ribeiro and P. de Montfort, Whistler, Women and Fashion, New Haven and London, 2003, p. 57, repr.; Glasgow University Library catalogue at; (accessed 2004).