The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Etienne Carjat, 1828-1906

Nationality: French
Date of Birth: 1828
Place of Birth: Fareins
Date of Death: 1906
Place of Death: Paris


Etienne Carjat was a photographer, caricaturist, designer, journalist and writer.


Carjat trained as an industrial designer, but then turned at the age of twenty six to caricature. He was a lover of the theatre and in 1854 published a series of lithographs entitled Le Théâtre à la ville. In 1858 he became apprenticed to the photographer Pierre Petit and then in 1860 opened his own photography studio at 56 rue Laffitte, which he operated for 20 years. Carjat received a medal for his photographs in the Salon of 1863.

A number of journals and newspapers were founded by Carjat, including the illustrated weekly paper Le Boulevard in 1861, which ceased publication in 1864, but nevertheless established his literary reputation.

Carjat famously photographed many artistic, literary and political figures, including Gioacchino Rossini, Emile Zola, Charles Baudelaire, Sarah Bernhardt, Charles Deburau, Gustave Courbet and Victor Hugo. The majority of his images were published in woodburytype in the Parisian Galerie contemporaine, littéraire, artistique, produced sporadically between 1876 and 1884. His photographs, which made use of the collodion glass negative process, were inferior in quality to Nadar's and he neither achieved the fame nor scale of Nadar's enterprise.

Whistler probably met Carjat whilst in Paris in April 1863 posing for Henri Fantin-Latour's Hommage à la Vérité: Le Toast (destroyed), Carjat being a friend of Fantin-Latour. Two cartes-de-visite, taken by Carjat at 56 rue Laffitte, are now in the Whistler Collection in Glasgow University Library.

There appears to have been a degree of camaraderie between the two men and on 20 June 1863 Carjat, who was in financial difficulties, in part due to his lifestyle of lavish entertaining (see Le Bouffon, 22 January 1867), wrote to Whistler requesting that he help him secure a rise in his income by giving the impression that there was English competition for his services (#00537).


Adhémar, J., 'Carjat', Gazette des Beaux-Arts, n.s. 6, vol. 80, August 1972, pp. 71-82; Heftler, S., Etienne Carjat photographe, Paris, 1982-83; MacDonald, M. F., Sun Pictures and Other Historic Photographs, exhibition catalogue, University of Glasgow Library, 1983; Fallaire, E., Etienne Carjat and 'Le Boulevard' (1861-1863), Paris, 1987; Hélène Bocard, 'Etienne Carjat', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, ( accessed 28 August 2002).