Between Panoramic and Sequential: Nadar and the Serial Image

[Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide. Vol. 11, Issue 3 (Autumn 2012)]

Abstract: This paper takes a look at both Nadar’s pictorial work and the early comic strip from a historical perspective framed by the multiplication of the serial image. The overview has a double aim. One is to outline an area of Nadar’s activity that usually gets only partial scholarly treatment because of its cross-platform nature: his experiments with the sequential image. Nadar played with graphic narratives and chronological photography at different points in his career. These efforts remained sporadic and spread out over several decades. Yet, beyond their documentary value, as I suggest, they shed insight on both the history of the comic strip and Nadar’s outlook on the image as a whole. They are emblematic of a tension between two axes of nineteenth-century culture: the sequential and the panoramic. To better understand Nadar’s approach to cartooning, it seems appropriate to place the early comic strip within its native ecosystem of thriving serial-image forms competing for the urban literate’s attention.

Nadar, “Vie publique et privée de mossieu Réac.” La Revue Comique #22, April 7, 1849.

Nadar, “Vie publique et privée de mossieu Réac.” La Revue Comique #22, April 7, 1849.

Thus, the first half of the article details some of the related graphic species that accompanied the emergence of the comic strip, from the classic gallery of caricatures to the ephemeral flip-print micro-narrative. Against that background of proliferation and cross-pollination between species, the roots of the comic strip appear more rhizomic than ever.

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