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Oscar Wilde

Photographer: Napoleon Sarony (1821 - 96)

'Portrait of Oscar Wilde in New York, 1882'

Sarony was an Canadian-born  lithographer and photographer. He was known for his portraits of the stars of late 19th-century American theatre. He established a photography studio at 37 Union Square, during a time when celebrity portraiture was a popular fad.

Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera Patience opened to great acclaim in New York in 1881. In it, Wilde was parodied through the character 'Bunthorne'. He was employed by D'Oyly Carte to promote the aesthetic movement in America, and in 1882 he embarked on a lecture tour. Originally planned to last four months, the tour finally lasted nearly a year and was, in Wilde’s words, a ‘great success…nothing like it since Dickens, they tell me’. 

Sarony took at least 27 poses of Wilde, many of them showing him in his ‘aesthetic’ dress. Such was the publicity value of Sarony’s work, that Wilde’s manager waived the fees for these sittings.

Gelatin silver print

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