Antoine Samuel Adam-Salomon was born into a middle-class Jewish family in the Seine-et-Marne department of France in 1818. His prowess as a pottery modeler in the Jacob Petit factory in Fontainebleau resulted in a scholarship to study in Paris, where he became a dedicated student of sculpture. His works were frequently exhibited at the Salon under the pseudonym of Adama, and Mr. Salomon continued his studies in England and Switzerland. In 1818, he married Christian artist Georgine Coutellier, who converted to Judaism and later served as her husband's studio assistant.
By 1860, Mr. Salomon was a respected sculptor, but his interest in portrait photography began occupying more of his time. What may have seemed to some as a midlife crisis turned into a lasting commitment to the fledgling medium. He approached portraiture from a decidedly aesthetic perspective, as his early photograph of dancer Lola Montez (known more as a popular courtesan in France than for her dancing) demonstrates. Her alabaster skin appears luminous in the stark contrast with the dark attire and background. The image was subjected to numerous retouches by the photographer to round out her cheeks and fill out her pencil-thin lips. When his portraits were presented to enthusiastic audiences at the Paris International Exhibition in 1867, Mr. Salomon had amassed a collection of more than 15,000 negatives, and his portraits reflected the photographer's mastery of detail and shading, with effectively contrasting tones of black and white. When discussing the time it took for him to achieve his desired result - an hour of posing, 15 seconds of shooting the image, and at least three hours to print the image - Mr. Salomon declared, "It is far more difficult to produce a good photographic portrait than a painted portrait." To achieve his dramatic lighting effects, he used the sun shining through his studio's ground-glass ceiling to provide overall light, and adjusted side-lighting with a curtain. Mr. Salomon also invented props designed to make the subject appear more natural and less stiffly posed. His skill as a portraitist earned him the respect of Nadar (pseudonym of Gaspard-Felix Tournachon), his greatest competitor of the time.
Antoine Samuel Adam-Salomon died in Paris on April 29, 1881 and was buried next to his wife in the Forest of Fontainebleau. In its obituary of the photographer, The British Journal of Photography declared that his name "was synonymous with artistic taste and perfection." However, as Nadar's fame has endured, the name of Adam-Salomon has sadly been virtually forgotten.
1981 After Daguerre by Bernard Marbot (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art), pp. 40, 42.
1881 British Journal of Photography, Vol. XXVIII (London: Henry Greenwood), p. 222.
2007 Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, Vol. I (New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group LLC), p. 6.
1989 French Daguerreotypes by Janet E. Buerger (Chicago: University of Chicago Press), pp. 57-60.
1912 The Jewish Encyclopedia, Vol. I, edited by Isidore Singer (New York: Funk and Wagnalls Company), p. 184.
2017 Life Study (Etude D'Apres Nature) (URL: http://www.getty.edu/art/collection/objects/46449/antoine-samuel-adam-salomon-life-study-etude-d'apres-nature-french-1870-1875).
1995 Nadar by Maria Morris Hambourg, Françoise Heilbrun and Philippe Néagu. (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art), pp. 55-56.
2017 Portrait of a Girl (URL: http://www.getty.edu/art/collection/objects/37452/antoine-samuel-adam-salomon-portrait-of-a-girl-french-1858-1881).
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