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  Adolphe Braun, Photographer

Jean Adolphe Braun was the oldest of three children born to Samuel and Antoinette Regard Braun in Besancon, France on June 13, 1812. After the senior Braun was discharged from the mounted police force, the family moved to Mulhouse, Alsace, a booming industrial city. After receiving a traditional French education that emphasized chemistry, Mr. Braun traveled to Paris to study design. In 1834, he married Louise Marie Danet, with whom he would have a son and two daughters. That same year, he and his brother Charles entered a design partnership, but it took six years before they would turn a profit.

After the death of his young wife in 1843, Mr. Braun sold his interest in the design company and returned to his hometown of Mulhouse, where he was named chief designer of Daniel Dollfus-Ausset's gallery. He also remarried, to Pauline Baumann, and had two more children, a son and daughter. Within four years, Mr. Braun opened his own textile design house in the suburban community of Dornach. He also educated himself on basic photographic principles initially as a hobby, and soon became extremely proficient in the new wet-collodion process, which he found particularly effective in producing botanical studies. His text, Fleurs Photographies, was a collection of 300 large-format floral images, lauded for their artistic merits, and became a surprising commercial success. After winning a silver medal at the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1855, Mr. Braun expanded his photographic repertoire to include various subjects and formats, which included Swiss peasants in regional attire ("Costumes de Suisse"); German and Swiss landscapes; and a collection of portraits of the Countess di Castiglione (Virginia Oldoini), which are believed to comprise the first fashion portfolio.

In 1864, Mr. Braun was commissioned to reproduce the contents of museum in Basel, Switzerland, which led to his request for permission to photograph the paintings housed in the Louvre. Although photography was not believed to produce adequate reproductions of oil paintings, he nevertheless received several commissions to document museum artwork. Mr. Braun, joined by his sons Henri and Gaston, worked closely with art critic Paul de Saint-Victor, who provided invaluable aesthetic insights. Mr. Braun's continued experimentation culminated in the realization that the discoloration of albumen prints required a non-silver alternative. After briefly flirting with Woodburytypes, Mr. Braun finally settled on carbon printing, and in 1866 paid $60,000 francs for a carbon printing patent that enabled him to produce superior prints that were resistant to light (and therefore discoloration). The following year, Mr. Braun applied his successful carbon technique to a series of large-format photographs collectively titled, "Panoplies de gibier" ["After the Hunt"]. Afterwards, his firm chronicled the Italian Renaissance masterworks, which included 25 memorable carbon prints of the Sistine Chapel.

By 1870, Adolphe Braun's studio operations employed a staff of more than 100, and were capable of producing more than 2,500 quality carbon prints daily, which proved to be a boon for his business and art historians alike. Meanwhile, the photographer-turned-entrepreneur became more politically conscious, and following the 1871 Franco-Prussian War, produced the moving "Alsace and Lorraine" photograph, which personalized the conflict by portraying the regions as sisters. Adolphe Braun died on December 31, 1877 at the age of 65. His firm, with son Gaston now at the helm, was renamed Braun, Clement et Cie (Company) before finally settling on the moniker Braun et Cie in 1910. Art reproductions remained the company's specialty long after the death of its founder and chief visionary.

2014 Clicking Fashion (URL:

1962 A Concise History of Photography by Helmut Gernsheim (New York: Dover Publications Inc.), p. 22.

2007 Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, Vol. I (New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group LLC), pp. 203-205.

1986 The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal, Vol. XIV (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum), pp. 161, 163.

2014 The Museum is Open edited by Andrea Meyer and Benedicte Savo (Berlin, Germany: Walter de Gruyter GmbH), pp. 51-53.

2003 The Rise of the Image edited by Rodney Palmer and Thomas Frangenberg (Farnham, UK: Ashgate Publishing), p. 10.

2017 Young Women in Old Clothes: The Politics of Adolphe Braun's Personifications of Alsace and Lorraine by Julia Ballerini (URL:

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