Quicksilver Brilliance || Adolf de Meyer Photographs

An exhibition of works by the great pictorialist. Adolf and Olga de Meyer at the Acropolis, 1900-1910
Gelatin silver print
Unknown artist

Olga de Meyer, Japan, 1900
Platinum print

De Meyer made this affectionate photograph of his new wife while on their honeymoon to Japan.

Lady Ottoline Morrell, ca. 1912
Platinum print

Rita de Acosta Lydig, ca. 1917
Platinum print

De Meyer’s portrait of the socialite, art patron, ”shoe queen”, and suffragette Rita de Acosta Lydig is striking in its simplicity of tone and contour. The image, which appeared in Vogue in 1917, resonates with the classical elegance epitomized in the paintings of society portraitists John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, who also depicted this “alabaster lady”.

Count Etienne de Beaumont, ca. 1923
Gelatin silver print

An aristocrat and patron of the avant-garde, Count Etienne de Beaumont cuts a dashing figure here, posed in one of the grand salons of his hôtel in Paris’ rue Masseran. The count hosted a series of legendary masquerade balls at this residence during the interwar period, attended by avant-garde artists such as Jean Cocteau, Pablo Picasso and Man Ray. De Meyer described these parties, which he and Olga often attended, as ”fêtes of unsurpassed magnificence” in a 1923 article for Harper’s Bazaar.

Josephine Baker, 1925-26
Direct carbon print

The New Hat Called Violette Worn by The Honorable Mrs. Reginald Fellowes, 1928
Gelatin silver print

Mannequin in Suzanne Talbot Hat, 1929
Trichrome carbro print

Plates from Le prélude á l’après-midi d’un faune, 1914

These six collotypes belong to de Meyer’s 1914 volume Le prélude á l’après-midi d’un faune. As with all bound works, the album is constructed from a variety of materials, each subject to the effects of time. In this case, the embrittlement of the adhesive used in the original mounting resulted in the separation of these six prints from their support leaves. Following the exhibition, each one was returned to its original location in the album, completing the conservation treatment of this rare book, one of only seven known copies, documenting Nijinsky’s scandalous 1912 ballet L’Après-midi d’un faune.

A rare exhibition of some 40 works by this master photographer, portraitist of celebrities, the first official photographer of the American Vogue and leading photographer of Vaslav Nijinsky and the Ballets Russes, was on view at the Met, between December 2017 & April 2018.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

February 17th, 2018


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