The Great Nadar
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The Great Nadar

3.7 (58 ratings by Goodreads)
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Description

A dazzling, stylish biography of a fabled Parisian photographer, adventurer, and pioneer. A recent French biography begins, Who doesn't know Nadar? In France, that's a rhetorical question. Of all of the legendary figures who thrived in mid-19th-century Paris--a cohort that includes Victor Hugo, Baudelaire, Gustave Courbet, and Alexandre Dumas--Nadar was perhaps the most innovative, the most restless, the most modern. The first great portrait photographer, a pioneering balloonist, the first person to take an aerial photograph, and the prime mover behind the first airmail service, Nadar was one of the original celebrity artist-entrepreneurs. A kind of 19th-century Andy Warhol, he knew everyone worth knowing and photographed them all, conferring on posterity psychologically compelling portraits of Manet, Sarah Bernhardt, Delacroix, Daumier and countless others--a priceless panorama of Parisian celebrity. Born Gaspard-Felix Tournachon, he adopted the pseudonym Nadar as a young bohemian, when he was a budding writer and cartoonist. Later he affixed the name Nadar to the facade of his opulent photographic studio in giant script, the illuminated letters ten feet tall, the whole sign fifty feet long, a garish red beacon on the boulevard. Nadar became known to all of Europe and even across the Atlantic when he launched "The Giant," a gas balloon the size of a twelve-story building, the largest of its time. With his daring exploits aboard his humongous balloon (including a catastrophic crash that made headlines around the world), he gave his friend Jules Verne the model for one of his most dynamic heroes. The Great Nadar is a brilliant, lavishly illustrated biography of a larger-than-life figure, a visionary whose outsized talent and canny self-promotion put him way ahead of his time.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 256 pages
  • 154 x 241 x 21mm | 466g
  • Random House USA Inc
  • CROWN PUBLISHING GROUP, DIVISION OF RANDOM HOUSE INC
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 132 B/W PHOTOS T/O
  • 1101902604
  • 9781101902608
  • 248,149

Review quote

"A superb account of one of the nineteenth century's most irrepressible spirits. Nadar was the founding genius of photography, especially portraiture, a heroic, disaster-prone balloonist, as well as a journalist, cartoonist, would-be revolutionary and one of the first 'bohemians'. Adam Begley brilliantly evokes the Paris of the Second Republic and Second Empire, its gloriously impoverished and eccentric artistic milieu, its squalor and political turmoil. Nadar knew everyone and took the photographs of the men and women who defined the era. Here the best work is excellently reproduced and discussed with great sensitivity and insight; from every point of view The Great Nadar is a beautiful book." --Ian McEwan "Nadar described himself as a reckless enthusiast, a hyperkinetic presence, every father-in-law's worst nightmare, someone who 'never missed an opportunity to talk about rope in a house where someone has been hanged or ought to be hanged.' That was nowhere near the half of it. Adam Begley fills in the rest, providing a portrait every bit as seductive as was its irresistible, irrepressible subject." --Stacy Schiff "Adam Begley has found the perfect biographical subject in Nadar--an irrepressible artist, a daring pioneer, a wild-eyed visionary, an outrageous self-promoter, and an enfant terrible, who, like some sort of Zelig, seemed to turn up alongside every major figure in Paris during the heady period of the mid-nineteenth century. But what makes this book so mesmerizing is Begley, who, with his own artistry, brings Nadar roaring to life on every page." --David Grannshow more

About Adam Begley

Adam Begley is the author of Updike. He was a Guggenheim fellow in 2010 and a fellow at the Leon Levy Center for Biography in 2011; from 1997 to 2009 he was the books editor of The New York Observer. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Financial Times, The London Review of Books, and The Times Literary Supplement. He lives with his wife in Cambridgeshire, England.show more

Rating details

58 ratings
3.7 out of 5 stars
5 21% (12)
4 34% (20)
3 41% (24)
2 2% (1)
1 2% (1)
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