Toronto. Emile Zola lived from 1840 to 1902 when he died under curious circumstances. Zola was one of the most famous French authors of his era. He was notorious for his role in the Dreyfus affair. Like many well to do men of his time he had both a wife and a mistress. His mistress bore his two children and his barren widow allowed the children to take their father’s name.
The great actor Paul Muni played him in the famous 1937 Oscar winning biographical movie of his life and times. It wasn’t until May 11, 1953, when LIFE (p155-164) ran an eight page article on Zola that we learned he was also considered a proficient photographer.
In the late 1800s, photography took root as a serious pastime once dry plates became common allowing the separation of the taking of photographs from the creation and development of sensitive media. Last year, the Guardian ran an article on the auctioning of Zola’s personal collection.
Once again, a big thank you to my good friend George Dunbar for researching this remarkable story of Emile Zola in LIFE magazine some 65 years ago.