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  • Print publication year: 2021
  • Online publication date: April 2021

Chapter 16 - Celebrity

from Part III - Scandinavian Reception


From the late 1870s Ibsen’s international fame started growing. His plays triggered debates and controversies, and the press followed him closely. His work generated immense public interest, as did his person and personal life, and by 1890 he was firmly established as a European literary celebrity. Nineteenth-century celebrities were – like modern celebrities – first and foremost media personalities. Their fame was promoted and maintained by newspapers, periodicals and magazines and, importantly, by new visual techniques like lithography and photography. This chapter describes how an iconic Ibsen was constructed in cartes de visite and cabinet cards produced in European photo studios during the latter part of the nineteenth century. As Ibsen’s fame grew, his portrait photos, originally meant for promotional use, entered the public sphere and began a life of their own. Eventually, they became collectors’ items to be kept in elaborate albums. After sketching the construction of the icon, the chapter traces its circulation in popular visual culture around 1900. Within the emerging consumer culture, portraits of Ibsen – like those of other celebrities – were printed on postcards and trade cards and used to promote a range of luxury commodities.

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