Jean Adolphe Braun
Dornach, Germany; [formerly Alsace, Germany]
Early French photographer of art history images. Braun was the son of Samuel Braus, a police officer stationed in Bresançon. The family moved to Mulhouse (Alsace) in 1822 where Braun grew up. He attended the local école industrielle (he missed attending the Mulhouse design school), completing his trade schooling in Paris, settling there. Initially worked as a fabric designer, setting up his own business in 1834 with his brother. That year, too, he married Louise Marie Danet, the daughter of the former secretary-general of the state's stables. Braun returned to Mulhouse after the death of his wife in 1843 to return to fabric design, but his employer's enthusiasm for photography whetted an interest in him, too. He married Pauline Baumann, a horticulturalist's daughter, and began photographing flowers. In 1853 he set himself up as a photographer, initially taking pictures which were then transferred to designs for wallpaper and fabric. His success in this venture led to a medal at the 1855 Paris Exposition Universelle. Braun expanded his oeuvre, taking scenes, still lifes, rare animal studies and people in Europe. He produced stereopticans in 1857. By 1859 he had produced his first art-historical inventory, a series of published plates, funded by Napoleon III of the Haut-Rhin region. By the 1860's Braun's stereoptican business was hugely successful. In 1866 he began taking works of art to record them. The first collections were drawings and paintings from the Kunstmuseum, Basel, the Louvre, and the Albertina in Vienna. At the time, the issue of whether or not photographs damaged works of art was hotly debated. Braun became one of the largest publishers of art images, along with Fratelli Leopoldo and Guiseppi Alinari (q.v.) and Anderson. His albums were presented to Empress Eugénie of France; he was one of only two photographic firms invited to document the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. In 1883, Braun secured an exclusive thirty-year contract to photograph the art objects at the Louvre. At Christmas, 1877, Braun suffered a sudden death. His business, however, safely in the hands of relatives and friends, continued to flourish. Images by Braun & Cie formed the collections of many budding art history departments, including Princeton University's and its Index of Christian Art.
Exposition du Palais Bourbon au profit des Alsaciens-Lorrains. Catalogue des peintures, pastels, dessins & objects d'art, reproduites en photographie inaltérable. Mulhouse: Veuve Bader & Co., 1874; Rome. Palais du Vatican. Chapelle Sixtine. Fresques de Michel-Ange ... Mulhouse: Bader,1872; Statues, bas-reliefs-fresques & tableaux, Photographiés à Florence, Milan et Venise. Mulhouse: [Braun] 1860?; Lucerne et le lac des IV cantons. Photographies d'Ad. Braun. 2 vols. Lucerne:Fortuné Aubert, 1875.
Lavin, Marilyn Aronberg. The Eye of the Tiger: The Founding and Development of the Department of Art and Archaeology, 1883-1923, Princeton University. Princeton, NJ: Department of Art and Archaeology and Art Museum, 1983, p. 13; J. Paul Getty Museum. "Explore Artists: Aldophe Braun." http://www.getty.edu/art/collections/bio/a1722-1; Kempf, Christian. "Adolphe Braun's Photographic Enterprise." In, Bergstein, Mary, and O'Brien, Maureen C. Image and Enterprise: the Photographs of Adolphe Braun. London: Thames & Hudson, 2000, pp. 9-29.