Water Lillies by Baron Adolph De Meyer
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Published in Camera Work, October 1908, 24:7
The early life of Baron Adolph de Meyer (1868 – 1946) has been obscured by contradictory accounts from various sources (including himself); he was born in Paris or Germany, spent his childhood in both France and Germany, and entered the international photographic community in 1894-1895. He moved to London in 1896, where by 1899 his Pictorialist photographs had earned him membership in the Linked Ring, a society of Pictorialist photographers in Britain. In about 1900, he assumed the title of Baron; de Meyer’s wife Olga, claimed to be the illegitimate daughter of the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII). In 1903, de Meyer contacted Alfred Stieglitz and became associated with the Photo-Secession. He traveled to the United States in 1912; he was hired as Vogue’s first full-time photographer in 1914, and produced fashion layouts and photographed celebrities there until 1921, when he accepted a position at Harper’s Bazaar that allowed him to return to Paris. Although de Meyer had set a standard for elegance and style, his Pictorialist-inspired fashion photographs were seen as outmoded by the 1930s, and he was forced to leave Harper’s Bazaar in 1932. Unrest in Europe brought him back to the United States in 1939, and he spent his remaining years in Hollywood, where he died, virtually unknown and unappreciated, in 1946.
De Meyer was the preeminent photographer of Vaslav Nijinsky and the Ballets Russes, and a dedicated and skilled pioneer in the use of the autochrome process of color photography. A master of fashion photography and society portraiture, he captured an elegant and leisured world which vanished with World War II. His sophisticated photographs, although once out of favor, have become models for many contemporary fashion photographers.
– Source: International Center of Photography
The critic Charles H. Caffin described this photograph by de Meyer as “a veritable dream of loveliness.” It is one of several floral still lifes de Meyer made in London around 1906–9, when he was in close contact with Alvin Langdon Coburn, a fellow photographer and member of the Linked Ring. Both men were inspired by the Belgian writer Maurice Maeterlinck’s 1906 book The Intelligence of Flowers, a mystical musing on the vitality of plant life. De Meyer exhibited several of his flower studies, including this platinum print, at Stieglitz’s influential Photo-Secession galleries in New York in 1909.
This photogravure was originally included in a copy of Issue No. 24, October 1908, of Camera Work, Alfred Stieglitz’s ground-breaking photography journal.
Adapted from: The Metropolitan Museum of Art