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Portrait of Nadar, around 1860, probably taken by his brother Adrien
Nadar's Signature.png

Nadar (born April 6, 1820 in Paris ; † March 21, 1910 there ; actually Gaspard-Félix Tournachon ) was a French photographer , caricaturist , writer and aeronaut .


Atelier Nadar (2nd and 3rd floor), 35 Boulevard des Capucines, around 1861
Caricature of Nadar by Honoré Daumier , 1869

Nadar studied medicine in Lyon , but soon gave up his studies in order to work as a journalist. First he did this locally, later in Paris , where he returned in 1839. As a result, he also did drawing, worked in the theater and even in industry, and founded the Revue comique in 1849 . In 1854 he married Ernestine, an eighteen year old from Normandy. Despite his antics, the relationship appeared to have remained loving and lasting.

In 1854 Nadar opened a studio for photographic portraits in Paris. Unlike other commissioned photographers, he soon dropped accessories and painted backgrounds and did not retouch. The models stage his portraits by means of lighting, silhouette, concentration on eyes and hands. His aim was to capture the person psychologically, as it were. His customers - most of them were friends with him - included numerous writers such as Gérard de Nerval , Charles Baudelaire , Honoré de Balzac , Théophile Gautier and George Sand and artists such as Honoré Daumier , Gioachino Rossini and Sarah Bernhardt .

In 1859 Nadar took the first aerial photos from a balloon at the Battle of Solferino . With great confidence in airship travel, he constructed a screw airship himself and thus inspired Jules Verne to write his novel Five Weeks in a Ballon . Nadar repeatedly ascended in 1863 in the giant balloon called Le Géant , which carried him with great difficulty on the second trip from Paris to Hanover , where the balloon fell to the ground in a field near Neustadt am Rübenberge . Nadar and his wife were seriously injured and had to be treated in the hospital in Hanover. On this trip he took aerial photographs, which he explained methodically in Nouveau système de photographie aérostatique . He described his journeys in Mémoires du Géant, à terre et en l'air (1864) and in Le droit au vol (1865).

In 1863 the Société d'encouragement de la navigation aérienne au moyen du plus lourd que l'air was founded, with Nadar as president and Jules Verne as secretary. The aim of this society was to promote the construction of flying machines that were heavier than balloons but could be controlled.

Nadar's long exposures in the Paris catacombs and sewers have also become famous .

To support his painter friends, he organized the first exhibition of Impressionist painting in his studio in 1874 , including paintings by Claude Monet , Edgar Degas , Camille Pissarro , Paul Cézanne .

From 1895 to 1909 Nadar's studio was in Marseille, then again in Paris. In 1900 Nadar published his memoirs: Quand j'étais photographe . In 1909 Ernestine died after 55 years of marriage. He himself died in 1910 a few days before his 90th birthday. Nadar is buried in the Père Lachaise Cemetery (Avenue des Acacias, Division 36) in Paris .

After his death in 1911, his studio was continued by his son Paul Nadar (* 1856 in Paris, † 1939 in Paris). Nadar's negatives are now kept in the Caisse nationale des monuments historiques in Paris . His prints and his archive are in the French National Library .

Photographs (selection)

Individual portraits




Actresses and singers

Politicians and statesmen


Other personalities


Self-portrait series tournant (“rotating”), around 1865

Group portraits

Other photographs


Balzac caricature, 1850

Three caricatures of Nadar by French writers for the series Les Binettes contemporaines (German for example: "The Visages of the Present") by Jean-Louis-Auguste Commerson (1854–1855):


  • Quand j'étais étudiant (1856)
  • Le Miroir aux alouettes (1858)
  • La Robe de Déjanire (1862)
  • Histoire buissonnière (1877)
  • Sous l'incendie (1882)
  • Le Monde ou l'on patauge (1883)
  • Quand j'étais photographe (1900). German abridged version: Quand j'étais photographe - When I was a photographer. Huber, Frauenfeld 1978, ISBN 3-7193-0595-3 .


The well-known French book price Prix ​​Nadar was named after him. In addition, the Tournachon Peak in Antarctica has had his real name since 1960.


  • Sylvie Aubenas, Anne Lacoste: Les Nadar - Une légende photographique , BnF Éditions, 2018, ISBN 978-2-7177-2782-1 , BnF
  • Nadar (Gaspard-Félix, Tournachon) (1820-1910). French photographer, writer, and caricaturist. In: John Hannavy (ed.), Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography , Taylor and Francis Group, New York 2008, ISBN 0-415-97235-3 , passim ; mostly online via Google books .
  • Maria Morris Hambourg: Nadar . Catalog on the occasion of the Nadar exhibition at the Musée d'Orsay , Paris (June 7 to September 11, 1994) and in The Metropolitan Museum of Art , New York (April 14 to July 9, 1995). [The exhibition was organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Réunion des Musées Nationaux / Musée d'Orsay in collaboration with the Bibliothèque nationale de France.] Schirmer / Mosel, Munich a. a. 1995, ISBN 3-88814-727-1 .
  • Rudolph S. Joseph ( discount encoders): bundle of documents Nadar exhibition at the Munich Film Museum . Foreword to the exhibition catalog, four pages typewritten as well as various texts on people photographed by Nadar in the collection created until after 1967, (signature notation EB 96/111-D.03.0014 ).
  • Julian Barnes : Levels of Life , 2013 Ins German by Gertraude Krueger: life stages . Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Cologne 2015, ISBN 978-3-462-04727-1 .


  • Nadar - A photographer changes the world. (OT: Nadar, le premier des photographes. ) Documentary, France, 2018, 52:13 min., Script and direction: Michèle Dominici, production: Doc en stock, arte France, Bibliothèque nationale de France , first broadcast: March 11, 2018 at arte, table of contents from ARD .

Web links

Commons : Gaspard-Félix Tournachon  - album with pictures, videos and audio files


Individual evidence

  1. ^ NN : Photography. Serious expression. In: Der Spiegel , August 29, 1977, No. 36, review of Nigel Gosling: Nadar - Photograph of famous contemporaries , Verlag Schirmer / Mosel, Munich 1977.
  2. Jules Verne's Technique Dreams: Guide to the World of the 20th Century. (No longer available online.) - the physics portal, formerly in the original ; Retrieved October 30, 2009 .  ( Page no longer available , search in web archives )@1@ 2Template: Dead Link /