By October 1840, a little over a year after several competing photographic processes had been made public, Hippolyte Bayard began staging elaborate self-portraits in his garden and other locations. His best known, Le Noyé [The Drowned Man], was made on October 18, 1840 (three variants can be found in the collection of the Société française de photographie (SFP) in Paris.

The Getty Museum’s collection includes six other self-portraits by Bayard in addition to this 1847 Self-portrait in the Garden (See: 84.XO.968.1, 84.XO.968.20).* In five of the seven self-portraits, he placed himself in garden settings. This was, in part, a practical decision since natural light was required to make photographs at the time. However, his choice of setting also reflects his passion for plants. He came from a family of gardeners—his maternal grandfather worked in the extensive grounds of the abbey in Breteuil, the village where Bayard grew up. His father, a justice of the peace, was a passionate amateur gardener who grew peaches in an orchard attached to the family home. The garden(s) featured in Bayard’s self-portraits may indeed be part of the family property in Breteuil or his own home in Batignolles—an area that was just on the outskirts of Paris.

The setting becomes an integral aspect of these portraits; Bayard, the man, merges with his environment. In this particular image, his feet are hidden behind a thriving ground cover as if he too is rooted in the earth and has sprouted from it. He has gone to great efforts to carefully arrange his gardening tools: a ladder, a watering can, pots, a vase, and a trellis. He leans on a barrel—perhaps an ancestor of our modern-day rain barrel. Not only does this sturdy structure anchor the composition; it also provided a much-needed support for Bayard, who had to maintain his pose over the extended period necessary for the exposure. The artist’s choice of clothing, including his cravat and cap as well as the positioning of his hands, all convey the effort he put into this composition.

*Four of the Getty’s Bayard self-portraits are part of a portfolio printed in 1965 by M. Gassmann and Son from Bayard’s original negatives that are housed in the SFP collection. (See: 84.XO.1166.1, 84.XO.1166.2, 84.XO.1166.8, and 84.XO.1166.25).

Carolyn Peter, J. Paul Getty Museum, Department of Photograph


  • Title: [Self-Portrait in the Garden]
  • Creator: Hippolyte Bayard
  • Date Created: 1847
  • Location Created: Paris, France
  • Physical Dimensions: 16.5 × 12.3 cm (6 1/2 × 4 13/16 in.)
  • Type: Print
  • External Link: Find out more about this object on the Museum website.
  • Medium: Salted paper print
  • Terms of Use: Open Content
  • Number: 84.XO.968.166
  • Culture: French
  • Credit Line: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
  • Creator Display Name: Hippolyte Bayard (French, 1801 - 1887)
  • Classification: Photographs (Visual Works)

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