The photographer Édouard Baldus (1813–1889), a central figure in the early development of French photography and acknowledged in his day as a pioneer in the still-experimental field, was widely acclaimed both for his aesthetic sensitivity and for his technical prowess. Establishing a new mode of representing architecture and describing the emerging modern landscape with magnificent authority, he enjoyed high patronage in the 1850s and 1860s. Yet, despite the artist's renown during his lifetime, his name is all but unknown today, his work savored only by connoisseurs.
This book, the first to chronicle the life and career of this important artist, brings his work once more before the public. The superb quality of the reproductions captures the subtle tones and soft matte surfaces of the original prints, many of which are published here for the first time.
Baldus made his reputation with views of the monuments of Paris and the south of France, with dramatic landscapes of the Auvergne, with photographs of the New Louvre, and with a poignant record of the devastating floods of 1856. But it is his two railroad albums—the first commissioned in 1855 by Baron James de Rothschild for presentation to Queen Victoria, the second in 1861 by the Paris-Lyon-Mediterranee railroad company—that are his greatest achievement. Here he brought together his earlier architectural and scenic images with bold geometric views of the modern landscape—railroad tracks, stations, bridges, viaducts, and tunnels—to address the influence of technology (of which both the railroad and the camera are prime examples). In so doing, Baldus anticipated the concerns of Impressionist painters a decade later and those of many artists of our own day, meeting his task with a clarity and directness not since surpassed.