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Adolphe Braun

French, 1812 - 1877

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Adolphe Braun was an important figure in the emerging photographic scene of the nineteenth century who produced thousands of portraits, nature studies, picturesque views and street scenes, as well as documents of the architecture, costumes, and social conventions of his time. Born in Besançon, Braun settled in Mulhouse, near the French border with Switzerland and Germany, where he was a designer and art director for a textile company. He later established his own design house specializing in creations for the textile and wallpaper industries. Braun began working with a camera in 1853 as a basis for his designs; in the following year he reproduced his first album of floral arrangements, and his formal and casual compositions were highly praised for their intrinsic artistry as well as their usefulness. He gave up his position in the design studio in 1855 to devote himself entirely to photography, and in 1868 he founded Braun et Cie., a fine art publishing firm.

The success of the floral albums inspired Braun to seek other subjects suitable for publication in a similar format, including architectural and scenic sites. He traveled through Alsace, Switzerland, and Germany in search of picturesque views, and made over 4,000 images. A highly talented technician, Braun used extremely large negatives and was able to capture fine details and a broad tonal range.

Although his investigation of the medium's possibilities resulted in a large body of images of excellent quality and varied purposes, Braun's contributions were overlooked during the early twentieth century, in part because of the commercial success of the firm he founded. It was only in the mid-1960s that his work came to be appreciated.

Artist Bibliography

Rosenblum, Naomi. "Adolphe Braun: a 19th Century Career in Photography." History of Photography 3:4 (October 1979): pp. 357-372.

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