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French Magician Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdin

Welcome to Epitaph for D’s Art Takes. Here we present the creative legacies of some of the most influential people, who are no longer amongst us. Today we invite you to take a look at the life of the French Magician Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdin.

Houdin the Horologist

Jean-Eugène was born in Blois, France in 1805. After an academic career in law, Houdin joined his father’s watch-making business. This profession influenced Houdin’s journey as an illusions in two major way. Firstly, many of Houdin’s stage performances were informed by a sound knowledge of mechanics. He gained this knowledge during his time making watches. Secondly, Houdin’s first encounter with magic was because of this very profession. In order sharpen his skills, Jean-Eugène had once purchased books on clockmaking. However, with a slight twist of fate, and an mistake on the part of the book seller, he erroneously wound up with books on magic instead. This was Houdin’s first encounter with magic.

The Making of “The Father of Modern Magic”

Its safe to assume Houdin did not return those books on magic, and read and learnt them from cover to cover. He moved to Paris in 1830 where he continued to work in clockmaking, while also working as an inventor and a performing magician. In Paris, Houdin was often seen in the company of other magicians, discussing tricks, methods and the latest technologies. Houdin’s first popular series of performances were called  Soirées Fantastiques. Some of his most popular tricks included “Second Sight” (where he ‘read minds’) and “Suspension by Ether” (where he made his son float mid air). It is noteworthy that Houdin was the first to use electricity in his magic tricks.

Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdin steadily gained recognition worldwide to a point where he performed for English nobility and impressed the tribesmen of Algeria.

After his final exit from the stage, this mastermind dedicated the remainder of his years to chronicling his adventures.

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