Architectural photographer Eduard Baldus (he changed the spelling to Edouard years later) was the second of eight children born to Johann and Elisabeth Weber Baldus in Grunebach, Prussia, on June 5, 1813. Virtually nothing is known about his family, childhood or educational background. He moved to Paris in 1838 to study painting, and remained there for the rest of his life (becoming a French citizen in 1856). The daguerreotype was invented the following year, and after a decade of painting religious portraits, Mr. Baldus decided to put down his brush in favor of a camera. By now, he had a family of his own - he married Elisabeth-Caroline Etienne in 1845 and they were the parents of three children - and felt that he could earn more money as a photographer than as a painter. A quick study, within a few years, Mr. Baldus was a founding member of the Societe heliographique in 1851, and shortly thereafter received a lucrative government commission to photograph Provencal monuments and other important French landmarks of geographical and cultural importance.
During the 1850s, Mr. Baldus immersed himself in experimentation, and along with fellow photographer Henri le Secq, made significant improvements to Gustave Le Gray's waxed paper calotype negative technique. His method included an added gelatin layer, which served to both create a smoother plate surface and sharpen image detail. Meanwhile, his nearly decade-long project of producing large-format photographs of some of France's most intriguing buildings, landscapes, and monuments, was receiving widespread critical praise and generating impressive commercial revenues. The massive documentary undertaking began with the monuments of Provence, continued with Auvergne and southeastern French landscapes, railroad and engineering projects throughout Paris and Lyon, chronicling the Rhone River floods, and concluded with the New Louvre royal palace construction. During this lengthy endeavor, Mr. Baldus developed several techniques that revolutionized architectural photography, including the selection of a perspective that enhanced the three dimensions of a particular subject. He also often intermingled oblique vantage points with traditional anterior views. Furthermore, using both horizontal as well as vertical counterpoints allowed the viewer to concentrate on the building or monument that was to serve as the primary focal point, without distractions.
By the mid-1850s, Mr. Baldus was widely regarded as France's preeminent architectural photographer. After his wife died in 1858, he returned to landscape photography, which included both small-format and stereographic images. However, his smaller glass negatives lacked the clarity and aesthetic balance of their larger counterparts. As photography field work became scarce, Mr. Baldus published photogravures that were stocked by various Parisian booksellers, and his works were exhibited throughout France until 1874. However, Mr. Baldus's later years were fraught with financial difficulties that resulted in bankruptcy in 1887. Seventy-six-year-old Edouard Baldus died in Arcueil, France, on December 22, 1889. A large collection of his works can be found at Paris's Musee d'Orsay, and the first major international exhibitions of his photographs were presented in 1994 and 1995 at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, Montreal's Canadian Centre for Architecture, and Paris's Musee National des Monuments. Seventy of Mr. Baldus's plates that recently resurfaced were auctioned in June 2017 at Copages Auction in Paris. Malcolm Daniel of the Metropolitan Museum of Art maintains that Edouard Baldus's photographs are a powerful historical commentary on the impact of technology on contemporary civilization, adding, "His presentation of landscape transformed by modern engineering confidently espoused a belief in technological progress. Baldus established the model for photographic representation in genres that barely existed before him."
2004 Édouard Baldus (1813–1889) by Malcolm Daniel (URL:// http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/bald/hd_bald.htm).
2007 Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, Vol. I (New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group LLC), pp. 61, 107-112.
2007 The Focal Encyclopedia of Photography edited by Michael R. Peres (Burlington, MA: Focal Press), p. 30.
1994 New York Magazine, Vol. XXVII (New York: New York Media, LLC), p. 121.
1994 The Photographs of Edouard Baldus by Malcolm Daniel (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art), pp. 2, 16, 18.
2017 Seizing the Light: A Social & Aesthetic History of Photography by Robert Hirsch (New York: Routledge), pp. 65-66.
2017 Suspicion of Counterfeiting: The Baldus Case (URL: http://plantureux.fr/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/PWT-18-2017-Baldus.pdf).
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