Mathew Brady: Portraits of a Nation

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Bloomsbury Publishing USA, Aug 6, 2013 - History - 288 pages
The first narrative biography of the Civil War's pioneering visual historian, Mathew Brady, known as the “father of American photography.”

Mathew Brady's attention to detail, flair for composition, and technical mastery helped establish the photograph as a thing of value. In the 1840s and '50s, “Brady of Broadway” photographed such dignitaries as Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, Dolley Madison, Horace Greeley, the Prince of Wales, and Jenny Lind. But it was during the Civil War that Brady's photography became an epochal part of American history.

The Civil War was the first war in history to leave a detailed photographic record, and Brady knew better than anyone the dual power of the camera to record and excite, to stop a moment in time and preserve it. More than ten thousand war images are attributed to the Brady studio. But as Wilson shows, while Brady himself accompanied the Union army to the first major battle at Bull Run, he was so shaken by the experience that throughout the rest of the war he rarely visited battlefields except well before or after a major battle, instead sending teams of photographers to the front. Mathew Brady is a gracefully written and beautifully illustrated biography of an American legend-a businessman, a suave promoter, a celebrated portrait artist, and, most important, a historian who chronicled America during the gravest moments of the nineteenth century.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - JBD1 - LibraryThing

A thorough but somewhat succinct biography of Mathew Brady, photographer. Wilson had little to work with in terms of Brady's early life and education, but he made the most of it, and thankfully has a ... Read full review

MATHEW BRADY: Portraits of a Nation

User Review  - Kirkus

The editor of the American Scholar tracks the career of America's pioneering photographer."Brady and the Cooper Institute made me president." Harmless flattery, perhaps, but Abraham Lincoln's remark ... Read full review


Photo by Brady
A Craving for Light
This Great National Map
In Daguerreotypes We Beat the World
Large Copies from Small Originals
Startling Likenesses of the Great
Wonderful Strangers
Last Place to See the Nation Whole
The Terrible Reality and Earnestness of War
Brady and the Lilliputians
Rebel Invasion
That Memorable Campaign
The Ball Has Opened
Familiar as Household Words
The Stings of Poverty

Illustrations of Camp Life
A Continuous Roll of Musketry
More Eloquent Than the Sternest Speech

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About the author (2013)

Robert Wilson is the editor of The American Scholar and a former editor of Preservation. His articles, reviews, and op-eds have appeared in numerous publications, including The Atlantic, Smithsonian, The Washington Post, The Wilson Quarterly, and The Boston Globe. He is the author of The Explorer King and the editor of A Certain Somewhere: Writers on the Places They Remember. He lives in Manassas, Virginia.

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