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American Library in Paris – Robert Wilson, Mathew Brady: Portraits of a Nation

September 24, 2013 @ 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm

In the 1840s and 1850s, “Brady of Broadway” was one of the most successful and acclaimed Manhattan portrait galleries. Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, Dolley Madison, Henry James as a boy with his father, Horace Greeley, Edgar Allan Poe, the Prince of Wales, and Jenny Lind were among the dignitaries photographed in Mathew Brady’s studio. But it was during the Civil War that he became the founding father of what is now called photojournalism and his photography became an enduring part of American history.

The Civil War was the first war in history to leave a detailed photographic record, and Mathew Brady was the war’s chief visual historian. Previously, the general public had never seen in such detail the bloody particulars of war–the strewn bodies of the dead, the bloated carcasses of horses, the splintered remains of trees and fortifications, the chaos and suffering on the battlefield. Brady knew better than anyone of his era the dual power of the camera to record and to excite, to stop a moment in time and to draw the viewer vividly into that moment.

Few books about Brady have gone beyond being collections of the photographs attributed to him, accompanied by a biographical sketch. Mathew Brady will be the biography of an American legend–a businessman, an accomplished and innovative technician, a suave promoter, a celebrated portrait artist, and, perhaps most important, a historian who chronicled America during its finest and gravest moments of the 19th century.

About the Author

Robert Wilson is the author of Mathew Brady: Portraits of a Nation, a narrative biography of the 19th-century American photographer. Wilson’s biography The Explorer King: Adventure, Science, and the Great Diamond Hoax–Clarence King in the Old West, was published in 2006 by Scribner and in paperback in 2007 by Counterpoint. He has been the editor of The American Scholar since 2004. Before that he was editor of Preservation, literary editor of Civilization, a columnist at USA Today, and an assistant editor at The Washington Post. He lives in Manassas, Virginia.

Author photo by Cheung Ching Ming


American Library in Paris
10 rue du General Camou
Paris, Ile-de-france 75007 France
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