Reference Entry

Cornelius, Robert

in Benezit Dictionary of Artists

ISBN: 9780199773787
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199899913 | DOI:
Cornelius, Robert

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  • Photography and Photographs
  • 19th-Century Art
  • Art of the United States


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American, 19th century, male.

Born 1 March 1809, in Philadelphia; died 10 August 1893, in Philadelphia.

Photographer (daguerreotypes), inventor. Portraits.

As both the creator and subject of the earliest surviving daguerreotype portrait made in America, in October or November of 1839, Robert Cornelius is a founding father of American photography. His many contributions involved incorporating fundamental elements of his family’s lamp business, Cornelius & Co., into the ever-evolving photographic process. Techniques for polishing metal, plating copper with silver, and general lighting methods were easily carried over into his second career as a portrait photographer, which began in May 1840, when he opened one of the first daguerreotype studios with his partner Paul Beck Goddard in Philadelphia. The studio closed in 1842, and about 50 daguerreotypes, primarily portraits of prominent businessmen and well-known scientists but also one landscape, have been attributed to him definitively. He taught the photographic process to Marcus Aurelius Root, American photography’s first historian....

Reference Entry.  294 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Photography and Photographs ; 19th-Century Art ; Art of the United States

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