Adolf de Meyer

(1868 - 1946) French


The facts of Baron Adolf de Meyer's early life have 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.
Lisa Hostetler
Handy et al. Reflections in a Glass Eye: Works from the International Center of Photography Collection, New York: Bulfinch Press in association with the International Center of Photography, 1999, p. 214.
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