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French photographer, publisher, and inventor Louis-Dèsirè Blanquart-Evrard was born in Lille on August 2, 1802. After working first for a tobacco company, Mr. Blanquart-Evrard began studying chemistry under the tutelage of Frederic Kuhlmann, and quickly became his instructor's laboratory assistant. During this apprenticeship, he combined his interest in art with science, and was particularly interested in developing techniques to paint on porcelain and ivory.
After marrying the daughter of a prominent Lyon textile merchant, Mr. Blanquart-Evrard joined her family's business. Upon learning of the 1839 invention of the daguerreotype, he began focusing upon photographic chemical research. William Henry Fox Talbot's invention of a negative-positive calotype process particularly intrigued him, and Mr. Blanquart-Evrard believed he could improve upon the technique. In December 1846, he accepted an invitation from the Academie des Sciences to present his research findings, and submitted several of the prints he made to an enthusiastic audience. He never publicly acknowledged the similarities between his and Mr. Talbot's processes, but Mr. Blanquart-Evrard's improvements are undeniable. He floated the paper into a silver solution instead of brushing it on, which sensitized the paper and produced better quality prints. He also learned that adding only gallic acid as a developing agent after exposure, not only was the exposure time reduced, but a much clearer print was produced. Mr. Blanquart-Evrard received a patent for his process in 1847, and two years' later he revealed his perfected version of Joseph Niepce de St. Victor's negative-on-glass process.
In 1850, Mr. Blanquart-Evrard invented albumen paper, which forever changed nineteenth-century photography. This is a process by which paper is coated with a solution of silver nitrate and water, which makes it sensitive to light. The following year, he opened one of the first photographic publishing companies, the imprimerie photographique in his hometown of Lille. At this time, he was also collaborating with an artist colleague in the mass production of prints to illustrate books. Throughout the 1850s, he published several albums that featured French and Italian engravings and early photographs.
However, despite his great professional success, Mr. Blanquart-Evrard's business suffered from the intense competition and frenzied pace of photographic innovations of this period. Also, the public was not particularly receptive to his improvements because of the high cost associated with his processes. Lithographs, while inferior in quality, were less expensive. Despite lowering his prices by half, he was forced to close his shop in 1855 and declare bankruptcy. With English photographer Thomas Sutton, Mr. Blanquart-Evrard opened the Establishment for Permanent Positive Printing in Jersey in 1855, but that also closed after two years.
Mr. Blanquart-Evrard devoted his later years to the study of color photography, and published his research in several texts, including Intervention de l'art dans la photographie (1863) and La photographie, ses origins, ses progress, ses transformations (1869). In 1870, he teamed with color photographer Ducos du Hauron to open a three-color printing company, but unfortunately, the Franco-Prussian War intervened, and the venture never materialized. Louis-Dèsirè Blanquart-Evrard died in Lille on April 28, 1872, and was universally celebrated as one of the world's foremost photographic pioneers.
2007 Art in Reproduction (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press), pp. 103-104, 119.
1998 Biographical Dictionary of the History of Technology (New York: Routledge), p. 127.
2008 The Concise Focal Encyclopedia of Photography (Burlington, MA: Focal Press/Elsevier, Inc.), pp. 20, 30.
2005 Dictionary of Photography (Delhi, India: Isha Books), p. 10.
2008 Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, Vol. I (New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group LLC), pp. 167-168.