Paul-Adolphe Rajon (1843 – Jun 8, 1888) was a French painter and printmaker, who started his career as a photographer while studying at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris under Isidore-Alexandre-Augustin Pils.
He etched both contemporary works and Old Masters as well as portraits, including ones of Ivan Turgenev, Théophile Gautier, J.S. Mill, Charles Darwin and Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Rajon was critically praised in France, England and the United States, through the acquaintance with the New York-based American print dealer Frederick Keppel.
Paul Adolphe Rajon Known for his etched reproductions of portrait paintings, Paul Adolphe Rajon was a French painter and printmaker active in Paris and London from the 1860s through the 1880s. His family moved from Dijon to Strasbourg to Metz, where Rajon received limited instruction from Auguste Migette (1802-1884) while working for his brother-in-law retouching photographic negatives.
He moved to Paris in 1864 and continued to work for photographers while studying with Isidore Pils (1813 or 1815-1875) at the École des Beaux-Arts. He became acquainted with young artists, including Félix Bracquemond (1833-1914), as well as Emile Boilvin (1845-1899) and Louis-Charles-Auguste Steinheil (1814-1885), friends from Metz then living in Paris. He obtained portrait commissions, one of which (a chalk drawing) was accepted at the Salon of 1865. Rajon learned etching from Léon Gaucherel (1816-1886) and Léopold Flameng (1831-1911).
His Salon entry in 1868, an etched reproduction of Jean-Léon Gérôme’s (1824-1904) painting Rembrandt in his Studio, was praised by the critic Philippe Burty (1830-1890) in his review of the Salon in the Gazette des Beaux-Arts. Rajon’s subsequent Salon entries were all etchings, for which he received medals in 1869, 1870 and 1873. In addition to reproductive etchings of works of contemporary artists and old masters, some of which appeared in the Gazette des Beaux-Arts and other Parisian journals, he produced original etched portraits of contemporary figures, including Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892) and J. A. M. Whistler (1834-1903).
At the instigation of Bracquemond, Rajon was among the French etchers invited by the British critic and journalist Philip Gilbert Hamerton (1834-1894) to visit London in 1872 to reproduce works in the National Gallery. Rajon’s etchings of two maritime works by J. M. W. Turner (1775-1851) and a portrait by Antony van Dyck (1599-1641) were well regarded, but his popular portrait of John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) after George Frederick Watts (1817-1904) was a financial as well as critical success. Several of his works were published in Hamerton’s art journal, The Portfolio. The demand for Rajon’s works in England led him to visit London for several months each year for a number of years. He exhibited at the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1878 and received a medal.
His introduction to the New York print dealer Frederick Keppel (1845-1912) led to an exhibition in New York in 1886 and visits to that city in 1886 and 1887. Rajon made several portraits of Americans, including then-First-Lady Frances Folsom Cleveland (1864-1947). His financial success allowed him to build a house and studio north-west of Paris in Auvers-sur-Oise, where Rajon lived and worked from 1880 until his death. (TNB 5/2010) Selected bibliography: Wickenden, Robert J. “Paul Adolphe Rajon (1842-1888),” The Print-Collector’s Quarterly, vol. VI, Part 2, pp 410-434, Dec. 1916.
Rajon was a friend of Émile Boilvin, Philippe Burty, Félix Bracquemond and Louis-Charles-Auguste Steinheil. He was awarded medals at the Salons of 1869, 1870, 1873 and at the Exposition Universelle of 1878.