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Édouard Baldus
Birth Date: 
Birth Place: 
Grünebach, Prussia
Death Date: 
Death Place: 
Arceuil-Cachan, France
Édouard Baldus was the most important French architectural photographer of the 19th century. He left his native Prussia for Paris in 1838 to study painting, and became a naturalized French citizen in 1849. Baldus submitted paintings to the annual Paris painting and sculpture Salon in 1841 and subsequent years, but few were accepted. He became interested in photography in 1848 or 1849, and took a tour photographing the south of France in 1849. By 1851, he had developed a variation of the dry waxed paper negative that enabled him to print images with great clarity and detail. Baldus was one of the founders of the Société Héliographiqe in 1851, the first French photographic association. He was one of five members of this society, along with Hippolyte Bayard (1801-1887), Gustave Le Gray (1820-1884), Henri Jean-Louis Le Secq (1818-1882) and Auguste Mestral (1812-1884), chosen by the French government’s Commission des Monuments Historiques to photograph historic monuments throughout France, a survey known as La Mission Héliogaphique. He photographed monuments from Paris south through Burgundy and the Rhône Valley to Provence during 1851. This was the first of several important photographic projects Baldus undertook during his career, including Les Villes de France photographiées, in which he photographed various monuments in Paris, Provence, the Midi and the Auvergne in the early 1850s. Baldus was selected to assist in the creation of a lavish photographic album given to Queen Victoria (1819-1901) to commemorate her visit to the Exposition Universelle of 1855 in Paris. Baldus photographed the then-new railroad line that ran from Boulogne to Paris, the Chemin de Fer du Nord, on which Queen Victoria traveled, and the sights along the route. The photographs are described by Malcolm Daniel (see below) as “some of the greatest pictures made during the 1850s, a decade we look upon as a golden age for French photography…” Of the 25 copies made, Queen Victoria’s presentation album still resides at Windsor Castle. His next major project was to document the construction of the New Louvre, from 1855 to 1857. Baldus took more than two thousand photographs, using glass negatives coated with collodion, which produced prints of exceptional clarity. His photography of the Louvre construction was interrupted by a governmental assignment to photograph the devastation in the Rhône River Valley caused by floods in 1856. During the next few years Baldus continued to take photographs of landscapes and architectural monuments around France. These included a series of photographs he took of the Château de la Faloise and its grounds in 1856. In 1861 he was commissioned to photograph views of the railroad that ran from Lyon to the Mediterranean coast and the towns and points of interest along the rail line. Sixty-nine photographs were included in the album, Chemins de Fer de Paris à Lyon et à la Méditerranée. His photograph oeuvre was recognized by membership in the Legion of Honor in 1860. Beginning in the 1860s, Baldus focused on producing books of photogravures, including volumes reproducing the engravings of 15th-18th century artists and volumes of his own photographs of French architecture. Near the end of his life he suffered financial problems, and filed a petition for bankruptcy in 1887. He died, out of the public view, in 1889. (TNB, 2/2010) Selected bibliography: Malcolm Daniel, The Photographs of Édouard Baldus, with an essay by Barry Bergdoll. Exhibition catalog. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1994. James A. Ganz, Édouard Baldus at the Château de La Faloise. Exhibition catalog. Williamstown, Mass.: Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, 2007. André Jammes and Eugenia Parry Janis, The Art of French Calotype, with a Critical Dictionary of Photographers, 1845–1870. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Uiversity Press, 19, pp. 139-14283. Anne de Mondenard, La mission héliographique: cinq photographes parcourent la France en 1851. Paris: Centre des monumens nationaux, 2002.