MLLE POLAIRE: FRENCH SINGER AND ACTRESS (PHOTOS BY REULINGER & NADAR)

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Mlle Polaire is actually the stage name used by French singer and actress Emilie Marie Bouchaud (1874-1939). Polaire was born in Algiers, Algeria and began her theatrical career as a cafe singer at the young age of 15. She moved to France two years later and ad0pted the stage name Polaire and became a music hall singer. In 1895, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec drew a sketch of her which appeared in the satirical magazine Le Rire. In 1900 her portrait was painted by Leonetto Cappiello and her popularity rose even more. She began acting in Paris in 1902 and became a major celebrity star. She was thought to be a gifted comedic actress but was also very well known for her beauty. She was famous for her tiny, corsetted waist. She was five feet and three inches tall. She lavishly overdressed in furs and dazzling jewels. In 1911 she appeared in her first silent film role and later appeared in six films of director Maurice Tourneur in 1912 and 1913. She then returned to the stage and toured the United States and England. She later made a reappearance in films, performing in ten (some were talkies). She died at age 65 and was buried in France. This cabinet card photograph (Photo 1) was taken in Paris, France at the studio of Reutlinger. Charles Reutlinger (1816-1860) was a French photographer whose studio operated between 1850-1937 in Paris, France. Among his subjects were many celebrities including the prettiest ladies of Paris. To view other photographs by Reutlinger, click on the category “Photographer: Reutlinger”.                                                       The second photo of Miss Polaire is featured in this vintage real photo postcard (Photo 2). She looks beautiful in this image. She is sitting cross-legged and wearing dark clothing, boots, and a large bow. Examining the print of the front of the card provides some interesting information.  We learn that the photographer of this image is the celebrated and talented Paul Nadar (1856-1939).He was a French photographer. He learned photography by his father, Felix Nadar, also a talented portraitist. Paul eventually ran his father’s studio. The establishment catered to a affluent clientele and was very successful. In 1890 he began shooting photographs from a hot air balloon. The press referred to him as “The Fearless Paul Nadar”. Nadar also photographed sites in Europe and Ssia along the ancient silk route. Some consider his work from that trip to be the first incidence of “photo-reportage”. In 1893 he became an agent in France for Eastman Kodak. The word “Eclair” appears in the bottom right hand corner of the photo. The Eclair Company was a movie production company established in 1907 and headquartered in Paris. The company produced many silent shorts in France beginning in 1908 and it’s American division produced films from 1911 through 1914. Included in their productions was one of the first film version of  “Robin Hood”.  In the top left hand corner of the photograph is the word “Bouffes”. The “Theatre des Bouffes-Parisiens” is a theatre located in Paris and founded in 1855. It was the location of the production that Miss Polaire was appearing in when she posed for this photograph. The name of the production can be seen in the bottom border of the card, “Claudine a l’Ecole”. The translated title of the play is “Claudine at School”. The story is from a 1900 novel by the French writer, Colette. It is a tale about a 15 year-old girl and her brazen conflicts with the headmistress and fellow students in her school. This vintage postcard has a great deal of back story. It is in excellent condition (see scans).

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MISS DEBRY : PORTRAIT OF A PERFORMER BY THE CELEBRATED FRENCH PHOTOGRAPHER (NADAR)

This vintage real photo postcard features a portrait of a pretty performer named Debry. She was photographed by a famous photographer with the last name of Nadar. The question exists whether the photographer is Paul Nadar (1856-1939) or Gaspard-Felix Tournacon (AKA Nadar) (1820-1910). This postcard dates back to circa 1904, and by that time the elder Nadar was 84 years old and not active in studio photography. Therefore the photographer was the younger Nadar. Paul was the son of Gaspard-Felix. Both were famous in the field of photography but their talent stretched to other disciplines. Paul’s talent extended to art, printing, and writing. In 1874, Paul managed his father’s Paris studio.  In around 1885 their relationship fractured. However the following year, the two collaborated on what is thought to be the first photo-interview in history. The subject of the interview was a prominent 101 year-old chemist and color theorist. That same year, Paul began photographing from a hot-air balloon. Paul liked experimenting and this led to him studying artificial lighting and developing a patented projection system for animating still pictures. Kodak named him their agent in France in 1893…. Gaspard Felix (G.F.), in addition to being a photographer, was a caricaturist, journalist, novelist, balloonist and advocate of manned flight. Portraits by G.F. can be found in a number of national museum collections. He opened his photography studio in Paris in 1854. He was a celebrity photographer (Actors, Politicians, Writers, Painters, and Musicians). He attracted many famous sitters because he was considered the best photographer in France. He was no fan of studio props. He preferred natural daylight. F.G. was most interested in focusing his photography on his subject’s face.He wanted the subjects to wear dark clothing for their portraits and often hid their hands from the camera. Although, he photographed many women, he preferred to photograph men. He believed that women believe “the images are too true to nature to please” them; even the most beautiful of the women. He once wrote that the most vain portrait sitters were actors and the second vainest group was soldiers. Ballooning was another area of F.G’s interest.  He was involved with writer Jules Verne in an organization supporting the development of “air machines”. In the 1850’s G.F. was experimenting taking aerial photographs. During the siege of Paris in 1870, Nadar was a principal in organizing balloon flights to do reconnaissance and carry the mail, creating the first airmail service. This postcard portrait was part of a series (no.769).  (SOLD)

MYSTERY CHANTEUSE PHOTOGRAPHED BY NADAR

ILBERT_0002This Cabinet Card presents a bit of a mystery.  The photograph is by famed French photographer, P. Nadar of Paris. The subject of the photograph is a mystery. The reverse of the card has the name “Ilbert”  written in two places. In addition the word “Chanteuse” also appears. Is she an opera singer? Is she a nightclub singer? The woman is very stylish and is wearing a fur and interesting hair clip. Hopefully, a viewer will leave a comment with some identifying information.                                                    ADDENDUM: This photograph entered into the cabinet card gallery in 2009. Since then there have been a number of cabinet card gallery visitors that have left comments concerning the identity of the subject of this  image. There has been some disagreement, but at least two visitors have identified this performer as being Yvette Guilbert (1867-1944). To follow the discussion about identification, check out the comment section below. Now back to Mlle Guilbert. Born as Emma Laure Esther Guilbert, she began singing as a child but worked at a Paris department store model when she turned sixteen. She also took acting and voice lesson and in 1886 she began working as an actress. She debuted at the Variette Theatre in 1888. She was soon singing at a number of popular clubs before starring in Montmartre at the Moulin Rouge in 1890. Over time she began to sing a lot of  monologue “patter songs”. Often the lyrics were risque, even raunchy. Her song frequently featured tragedy and poverty. Guilbert was audacious and audiences ate it up. She was celebrated in France, England and the United States. She was a favorite subject of artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, who made many portraits and caricatures of Guilbert. Later in her career, she appeared in silent movies, talkies and made recordings. She also wrote books about the Belle Epoque. It is interesting to note that Nadar, the photographer of the mystery chanteuse also photographed Yvette Guilbert. A Nadar photograph of Mlle Guilbert is part of the collection at the National Library of France. A copy of that image can be found below.

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Published in: on December 1, 2015 at 12:01 pm  Comments (7)  
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MLLE TUSINI AND LYDIA BOREL IN LA CHERCHEUSE D’ESPRIT (NADAR)

nadar11This terrific theatrical cabinet card was photographed by famed French photographer P. Nadar.  Mlle Tusini is seen with Lydia Borel in the production of La Chercheuse D’esprit. The play is a comic opera by Favart. The play premiered in 1864. The actresses are spectacularly dressed in this great image.

Published in: on May 8, 2009 at 12:59 am  Leave a Comment  
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