Cover image for Napoleon Sarony’s Living Pictures: The Celebrity Photograph in Gilded Age New York By Erin Pauwels

Napoleon Sarony’s Living Pictures

The Celebrity Photograph in Gilded Age New York

Erin Pauwels

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$69.95 | Hardcover Edition
ISBN: 978-0-271-09506-6

268 pages
8" × 10"
90 b&w illustrations
2024

Napoleon Sarony’s Living Pictures

The Celebrity Photograph in Gilded Age New York

Erin Pauwels

Napoleon Sarony’s Living Pictures persuasively links Sarony's work to a set of major conceptual questions in the history of the photography of the last third of the nineteenth century, offering an archivally intensive and contextually rich account of a major—but understudied—photographer of this period.”

 

  • Description
  • Reviews
  • Bio
  • Table of Contents
  • Sample Chapters
  • Subjects
Napoleon Sarony was once one of the most famous names in American photography. During the Gilded Age, his grand portrait studio with its one-story-high marquee reproducing the photographer’s signature in golden letters was a New York City landmark visited by celebrities such as Oscar Wilde, Sarah Bernhardt, and Mark Twain. Sarony’s story represents a central chapter in the history of photography. Napoleon Sarony’s Living Pictures documents Sarony’s career as New York City’s premier portrait photographer and details a moment when the birth of celebrity culture and growth of mass media helped promote popular acceptance of photography as fine art.

Sarony’s larger-than-life public image was crucial to demonstrating photography’s creative potential. At a time when photographers were commonly regarded as straitlaced entrepreneurs or technicians, Sarony circulated self-portraits in outlandish costumes to assert himself as a flamboyantly eccentric artist. These photographic performances forged an authoritative link between the so-called father of artistic photography in America and the stylish celebrity portraits that emerged from his studio by the tens of thousands.

Reconstructing Sarony’s biography and bringing to light never-before-published portraits, Erin Pauwels provides an illuminating view of how one artist’s quest for creative recognition fueled the rise of celebrity culture and artistic photography in the United States. This book will appeal to historians of photography and nineteenth-century American visual culture, as well as anyone interested in this master of the medium of photography and his celebrity subjects.

Napoleon Sarony’s Living Pictures persuasively links Sarony's work to a set of major conceptual questions in the history of the photography of the last third of the nineteenth century, offering an archivally intensive and contextually rich account of a major—but understudied—photographer of this period.”
“Erin Pauwels brilliantly analyzes the ways that Napoleon Sarony’s late nineteenth-century renown as a celebrity portrait photographer was finely attuned to the emerging medial and consumer cultures of his time. Her wide-ranging interdisciplinary scholarship and extensive original research authoritatively place Sarony within American and global contexts of cultural mobility, nationalism, and technological change.”

Erin Pauwels is Assistant Professor of Art History at the Tyler School of Art and Architecture of Temple University.

List of Illustrations

Acknowledgments

Introduction

1. A Portrait of the Artist

2. Public Images

3. Consuming Copies

4. A Signature Look

5. Objects of Art

6. Living Pictures / Modern Art

Conclusion: Nineteenth-Century Afterimages

Notes

Bibliography

Index