Nadar was the pseudonym of Gaspard-Félix Tournachon (6 April 1820 – 23 March 1910), a French photographer, caricaturist, journalist, novelist, and balloonist.
He is remembered as a photographer, for the portraits that he made of his great contemporaries. The Museum’s print of the Taylor portrait is a woodburytype, a kind of print in which the image is formed by ink that has been transferred from a lead intaglio plate. Unlike modern systems of photomechanical reproduction, the woodburytype did not use a halftone screen, and thus achieved a truly continuous scale of gray values. The process produced prints of great beauty and exceptional permanence, and was practical for making editions of several hundred prints from a single plate. Unhappily, the technique was abandoned after the introduction of the halftone reproduction in the late nineteenth century.
In 1874, when Nadar’s best work as a photographer was behind him, he earned a footnote in the art history texts by lending (or perhaps renting) his studio to a group of dissident painters for an independent exhibition. The show was generally conceded to be a failure. Renoir, one of the group said, “The only thing we got out of it was the label ‘Impressionism,’ a name I loathe”.