Auguste and Louis Lumière

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Auguste and Louis Lumière
Fratelli Lumiere.jpg
Auguste (left) and Louis (right)
BornAuguste Marie Louis Nicolas Lumière
(1862-10-19)19 October 1862
Louis Jean Lumière
(1864-10-05)5 October 1864
10 April 1954(1954-04-10) (aged 91)
Lyon, France
6 June 1948(1948-06-06) (aged 83)
Bandol, France
Resting placeNew Guillotière Cemetery (location A6)
Alma materLa Martiniere Lyon
  • Charles-Antoine Lumière (1840–1911)
  • Jeanne Joséphine Costille Lumière (1841–1915)
AwardsElliott Cresson Medal (1909)

The Lumière brothers (UK: /ˈlmiɛər/, US: /ˌlmiˈɛər/; French: [lymjɛːʁ]), Auguste Marie Louis Nicolas ([oɡyst maʁi lwi nikɔla]; 19 October 1862 – 10 April 1954) and Louis Jean ([lwi ʒɑ̃]; 5 October 1864 – 7 June 1948),[1][2] were manufacturers of photography equipment, best known for their Cinématographe motion picture system and the short films they produced between 1895 and 1905. Their screening on 22 March 1895 for circa 200 members of the "Society for the Development of the National Industry" in Paris was probably the first presentation of films on a screen for a large audience. Their first commercial public screening on 28 December 1895 for circa 40 paying visitors and invited relations has traditionally been regarded as the birth of cinema. Either the techniques or the business models of earlier filmmakers proved to be less viable than the breakthrough presentations of the Lumières.


The Lumière brothers were born in Besançon, France, to Charles-Antoine Lumière (1840–1911)[3] and Jeanne Joséphine Costille Lumière, who were married in 1861 and moved to Besançon, setting up a small photographic portrait studio where Auguste and Louis were born. They moved to Lyon in 1870, where son Edouard and three daughters were born. Auguste and Louis both attended La Martiniere, the largest technical school in Lyon.[4] Their father Charles-Antoine set up a small factory producing photographic plates, but even with Louis and a young sister working from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. it teetered on the verge of bankruptcy, and by 1882 it looked as if they would fail. When Auguste returned from military service, the boys designed the machines necessary to automate their father's plate production and devised a very successful new photo plate, 'etiquettes bleue', and by 1884 the factory employed a dozen workers.

Cinématographe Lumière at the Institut Lumière, France

They patented several significant processes leading up to their film camera, most notably film perforations (originally implemented by Emile Reynaud) as a means of advancing the film through the camera and projector. The original cinématographe had been patented by Léon Guillaume Bouly on 12 February 1892.[5] The cinématographe — a three-in-one device that could record, develop, and project motion pictures — was further developed by the Lumières.[6] The brothers patented their own version on 13 February 1895.[7]

The date of the recording of their first film is in dispute. In an interview with Georges Sadoul given in 1948, Louis Lumière tells that he shot the film in August 1894. This is questioned by historians (Sadoul, Pinel, Chardère) who consider that a functional Lumière camera didn't exist before the end of 1894, and that their first film La Sortie de l'usine Lumière à Lyon was recorded on 19 March 1895, and then publicly projected 22 March 1895 at the Société d'encouragement pour l'industrie nationale in Paris.

The Lumière brothers saw film as a novelty and had withdrawn from the film business by 1905. They went on to develop the first practical photographic colour process, the Lumière Autochrome.

Tomb of the Lumière brothers in the New Guillotière Cemetery in Lyon

Louis died on 6 June 1948 and Auguste on 10 April 1954. They are buried in a family tomb in the New Guillotière Cemetery in Lyon.

First film screenings[edit]

The Lumières presented their invention with a screening on 22 March 1895 in Paris, at the "Society for the Development of the National Industry", in front of an audience of 200 people, one of whom was Léon Gaumont, then director of the company the Comptoir géneral de la photographie. The main focus of the conference by Louis Lumière concerned the recent developments in the photograph industry, mainly the research on polychromy (colour photography). It was much to Lumière's surprise that the moving black-and-white images retained more attention than the coloured stills.[8] The American Woodville Latham screened works of film 2 months later on 20 May 1895.[9] The first public screening of films at which admission was charged was a program by the Skladanowsky brothers that was held on 1 November 1895 in Berlin.[10]

The Lumières gave their first paid public screening on 28 December 1895, at Salon Indien du Grand Café in Paris.[11] This history-making presentation consisted of the following 10 short films (in order of presentation):[12][13]

  1. La Sortie de l'usine Lumière à Lyon (literally, "the exit from the Lumière factory in Lyon", or, under its more common English title, Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory), 46 seconds
  2. Le Jardinier (l'Arroseur Arrosé) ("The Gardener", or "The Sprinkler Sprinkled"), 49 seconds
  3. Le Débarquement du congrès de photographie à Lyon ("the disembarkment of the Congress of Photographers in Lyon"), 48 seconds
  4. La Voltige ("Horse Trick Riders"), 46 seconds
  5. La Pêche aux poissons rouges ("fishing for goldfish"), 42 seconds
  6. Les Forgerons ("Blacksmiths"), 49 seconds
  7. Repas de bébé ("Baby's Breakfast" (lit. "baby's meal")), 41 seconds
  8. Le Saut à la couverture ("Jumping Onto the Blanket"), 41 seconds
  9. La Places des Cordeliers à Lyon ("Cordeliers Square in Lyon"—a street scene), 44 seconds
  10. La Mer (Baignade en mer) ("the sea [bathing in the sea]"), 38 seconds
Lumières La Sortie de l'Usine Lumière à Lyon 1895

Each film is 17 meters long, which, when hand cranked through a projector, runs approximately 50 seconds.

Cinématographe advertising poster with image from L'Arroseur arrosé

The Lumières went on tour with the cinématographe in 1896, visiting Brussels (the first place a film was played outside Paris on the Galleries Saint-Hubert on 1 March 1896), Bombay, London, Montreal, New York City, Palestine, and Buenos Aires.

In 1896, only a few months after the initial screenings in Europe, films by the Lumiere Brothers were shown in Egypt, first in the Tousson stock exchange in Alexandria on 5 November 1896 and then in the Hamam Schneider (Schneider Bath) in Cairo.[14][15]

Louis Lumiere

The moving images had an immediate and significant influence on popular culture with L'Arrivée d'un Train en Gare de la Ciotat (literally, "the arrival of a train at La Ciotat", but more commonly known as Arrival of a Train at a Station) and Carmaux, défournage du coke (Drawing out the coke).[clarification needed] Their actuality films, or actualités, are often cited as the first, primitive documentaries. They also made the first steps towards comedy film with the slapstick of L'Arroseur Arrosé.

Early colour photography[edit]

Autochrome colour picture by Jean-Baptiste Tournassoud of North-African soldiers, Oise, France, 1917.

The brothers stated that "the cinema is an invention without any future" and declined to sell their camera to other filmmakers such as Georges Méliès. This made many film makers upset. Consequently, their role in the history of film was exceedingly brief. In parallel with their cinema work they experimented with colour photography. They worked on a number of colour photographic processes in the 1890s including the Lippmann process (interference heliochromy) and their own 'bichromated glue' process,[16] a subtractive colour process, examples of which were exhibited at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1900. This last process was commercialised by the Lumieres but commercial success had to wait for their next colour process. In 1903 they patented a colour photographic process, the Autochrome Lumière, which was launched on the market in 1907.[17] Throughout much of the 20th century, the Lumière company was a major producer of photographic products in Europe, but the brand name, Lumière, disappeared from the marketplace following merger with Ilford.[18]

Advantages of the Cinématographe Lumière over other systems[edit]

Earlier moving images in for instance phantasmagoria shows, the phénakisticope, the zoetrope and Émile Reynaud's Théâtre Optique consisted of hand-drawn images. Despite many obvious similarities, animation is usually regarded as a very different medium than cinematography. A system that could record reality in motion, in a fashion much like it is seen by the eyes, had a greater impact on people.

Eadweard Muybridge's Zoopraxiscope lectures showed painted contours based on his chronophotography recordings. The only Zoopraxoscope disc with actual photographs was made with an early form of stop motion. Lesser known predecessors, such as Jules Duboscq's Bioscope were not projected.

Louis Le Prince's Roundhay Garden Scene (1888) and other films are now widely regarded as the first examples of proper cinematography, but Le Prince disappeared without a trace before he managed to present his work or publish about it.

Ottomar Anschütz's Electrotachyscope projected very short loops. The films of the Lumières initially lasted circa 50 seconds each.

Thomas Edison believed projection of films wasn't as viable a business model as offering the films in the "peepshow" kinetoscope device. Watching the images on the screen turned out to be much preferred by audiences.

William Friese-Greene's "machine camera", patented in 1889,[19] Thomas Edison's Kinetoscope (developed by William Kennedy Dickson), premiered publicly in 1894.[20] did not impress audiences.

Kazimierz Prószyński had built his camera and projecting device, called Pleograph, in 1894. No details are known.

Lauste and Latham's Eidoloscope was demonstrated for members of the press on April 21, 1895, and opened to the paying public on Broadway on May 20.[21] The Eidoloscope Company was dissolved in 1896 after copyright disputes.

Max and Emil Skladanowsky, inventors of the Bioscop, had offered projected moving images to a paying public in Berlin from 1 November 1895 until the end of the month. Their machinery was relatively cumbersome and their films much shorter. Their planned screening in Paris were cancelled after they had watched the 26 December 1895 Lumière screening and competition seemed futile.

See also[edit]

Their house in Lyon is now the Institut Lumière museum.



  1. ^ "Louis Lumière, 83, A Screen Pioneer. Credited in France With The Invention of Motion Picture". The New York Times. 7 June 1948. Retrieved 29 April 2008.
  2. ^ "Died". Time. 14 June 1948. Retrieved 29 April 2008. Louis Lumière, 83, wealthy motion-picture and colour-photography pioneer, whom (with his brother Auguste) Europeans generally credit with inventing the cinema; of a heart ailment; in Bandol, France.
  3. ^ "Who's Who of Victorian Cinema". Retrieved 17 September 2018.
  4. ^ Gina De Angelis (2003). Motion Pictures. The Oliver Press. ISBN 978-1-881508-78-6.
  5. ^ "Brevet FR 219.350". Cinematographes. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
  6. ^ Chardère 1987, p. 70.
  7. ^ "Brevet FR 245.032". Cinematographes. Retrieved 12 November 2013.
  8. ^ Chardère 1985, p. 71.
  9. ^ Burns, Paul. "1895 Major Woodville Latham (1838–1911)"., October 1999. Retrieved 2 January 2017.
  10. ^ "Who's Who of Victorian Cinema". Retrieved 17 September 2018.
  11. ^ 28 December 1895.
  12. ^ "Bienvenue sur Adobe GoLive 4"., 12 September 2005. Retrieved 16 August 2013.
  13. ^ "La première séance publique payante", Institut Lumière Archived 12 September 2005 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ Leaman, Oliver (16 December 2003). Companion Encyclopedia of Middle Eastern and North African Film. Routledge. ISBN 9781134662524.
  15. ^ "Alexandria, Why? (The Beginnings of the Cinema Industry in Alexandria)". Bibliotheca Alexandrina's AlexCinema.
  16. ^ "Lumiere Trichrome". Retrieved 2 January 2017.
  17. ^ Lavédrine and Gandolfo 2013, p. 70.
  18. ^ "City of Lyon Document" Archived 13 February 2013 at Retrieved 2 January 2017.
  19. ^ "William Friese-Greene". Retrieved 21 November 2018.
  20. ^ "Chronology of Film Shows pre-1896". Retrieved 21 November 2018.
  21. ^ Streible, Dan (11 April 2008). Fight Pictures: A History of Boxing and Early Cinema. University of California Press. p. 46. ISBN 9780520940581. Retrieved 16 May 2016.


  • Chardère, B. Les images des Lumière (in French). Paris: Gallimard, 1995. ISBN 2-07-011462-7.
  • Chardère, B., G. Borgé, G. and M. Borge. Les Lumière (in French). Paris: Bibliothèque des Arts, 1985. ISBN 2-85047-068-6.
  • Cook, David. A History of Narrative Film (4th ed.). New York: W. W. Norton, 2004. ISBN 0-393-97868-0.
  • Lavédrine, Bertrand and Jean-Paul Gandolfo. The Lumière Autochrome: History, Technology, and Preservation. Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2013. ISBN 978-1-60606-125-1.
  • Mast, Gerald and Bruce F. Kawin. A Short History of the Movies (9th ed.). New York: Pearson Longman, 2006. ISBN 0-321-26232-8.
  • Rittaud-Hutinet, Jacques. Le cinéma des origines (in French). Seyssel, France: Champ Vallon, 1985. ISBN 2-903528-43-8.

External links[edit]