Jean-Paul Sartre

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Jean-Paul Sartre

by Ida Kar
2 1/4 inch square film negative, 1961
Purchased, 1999
Photographs Collection
NPG x133288

Sitterback to top

  • Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980), Novelist and playwright; philosopher and exponent of Existentialism. Sitter in 2 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • Ida Kar (1908-1974), Photographer. Artist or producer associated with 1567 portraits, Sitter in 137 portraits.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Freestone, Clare (appreciation) Wright, Karen (appreciation), Ida Kar Bohemian Photographer, 2011 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 10 March to 19 June 2011), p. 109 Read entry

    Sartre studied philosophy at the École Normale Supérieure and at the Sorbonne. From 1931 to 1945 he taught philosophy at Le Havre, Laon and Paris. His first novel, La nausée (Nausea), published in 1938, contained many of the existentialist ideas that he later developed. L'Etre et le néant (Being and Nothingness), Sartre's central philosophical work, was published in 1943. It defends individual freedom and human dignity. The concepts of freedom and social responsibility were also examined in L'Existentialisme est un humanism (Existentialism and Humanism). During the Second World War Sartre was a member of the Resistance movement in Paris, and in 1946, together with the writer and philosopher Simone de Beauvoir, his lifelong partner, he founded the literary and political review Les temps modernes (Modern Times). He wrote many critically acclaimed plays, including Les mooches (The Flies, 1943). In his later years he was active in left-wing politics and wrote extensively about existentialism and Marxism. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1964, but declined it. Kar photographed Sartre among stacks of books and manuscripts in his apartment on the boulevard Raspail in Montparnasse.

Placesback to top

  • Place made and portrayed: France (sitter's home, Paris, France)

Events of 1961back to top

Current affairs

Peter Benenson's article The Forgotten Prisoners is published internationally, inspiring the founding of the human rights organisation, Amnesty International.
The philosopher and peace activist Bertrand Russell is imprisoned for inciting civil disobedience during a sit down demonstration at the Ministry of Defence and Hyde Park.
The farthing coin - used in Britain for the last 7 centuries - ceases to be legal tender.

Art and science

Rudolf Nureyev defects from the USSR fearing that the KGB would arrest him for being gay and for fraternising with foreigners. After seeking asylum in Paris he set up home in London at the Royal Ballet and began his famous partnership with Margot Fonteyn.
The satirical magazine, Private Eye is first published.


The East German government erects the Berlin Wall, ceasing free movement between East and West Berlin. The barrier prevented citizens of Soviet controlled East Germany from crossing the border into West Germany to work, or to defect.
Yuri Gagarin, the soviet cosmonaut, becomes the first man in space orbiting the earth on the 12th April.

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