Robert Houdin, the Father of Modern Magic

Robert Houdin, the Father of Modern Magic

Robert Houdin

Robert Houdin, a French magician is widely regarded as the father of modern magic. He was so wildly famous  as an illusionist that Napoleon III sent him away to Algiers to outdo the so called miracles performed by religious leaders there and to maintain France’s strong influence. Before becoming a prestigious magician, he was simply Jean Eugene Robert, son of a watchmaker, born in Blois, France on the 6th of December 1805. He studied at the University of Orleans, and worked as a watchmaker before dedicating himself to magic. He was nearly 40 when he had his first show, after being mistakenly introduced to magic- someone gave him a book about scientific amusements.

Robert Houdin and Magic

Robert Houdin managed to transform magic from a street show to a performance art, filling large theatre or some of the most lavish Parisian homes. Known for his inventiveness, Robert brought electricity to the magic stage- thanks to his background in clockworks. He was also the one to pin the outfit worn by nowadays magicians- the top hat and coattail- wearing such an outfit whenever he performed, due to the fact that he considered it to bring authority to his act.

His most famous and loved tricks were growing a orange tree out of thin air, before the audience’s eyes and suspending bodies in air. Robert Houdin executed this tricks so neatly that he was forced to reveal them to the authorities in order to avoid being persecuted for witchcraft.  In retirement, he spent his days writing an autobiography- Confidences d’un Prestidigitateur and several other books. He died in 1871 of pneumonia.

Robert Houdin was so loved that he even has his own museum- entirely dedicated to him and his work- Le Maison de la Magie Robert Houdin, in his hometown, established in 1998. Did you know that the famous magician Harry Houdini was fascinated with Robert Houdin? He even took his name!

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Katie Zahel
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