F. Holland Day (American, Norwood, Massachusetts 1864–1933 Norwood, Massachusetts)
Image: 24.2 x 18.8 cm (9 1/2 x 7 3/8 in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Harriette and Noel Levine Gift, 2005
Not on view
F. Holland Day was an avid bibliophile and co-founder, with Herbert Copland, of the Boston publishing firm of Copland and Day, modeled on William Morris's Kelmscott Press. A friend and admirer of Oscar Wilde and a collector of Aubrey Beardsley's work, Day brought out the American edition of Wilde's "Salomé" (1894) and "The Yellow Book." He began experimenting with photography in 1886 and developed into a proficient portraitist, a daring apologist for the male nude, and a controversial illustrator of Christian themes. In 1896, Day was elected to The Linked Ring, and in 1898 a one-man exhibition at the New York Camera Club clearly established him as a leading American Pictorialist. In 1896 and 1897, Day produced his famed Nubian Series, photographs of an African-American male model posing as a draped Ethiopian chief or in the nude in allegorical compositions. These provoking studies of the black male nude were brilliant demonstrations of the delicate tonal nuances obtainable in the platinum print, and were generally greatly admired; two of them were reproduced in Stieglitz's "Camera Notes." Day probably created this self-portrait at the time of the Nubian Series, in 1896-97. The photographer appears in this image very much the refined aesthete, clad in the Turkish robe he affected in the studio, wearing a cravat and a pince-nez and holding a cigarette. Behind him, the barely visible figure of a nude black man echoes with a pensive pose the elegant gesture of the photographer. A soft focus enhances the dreamlike effect: muse, alter ego, or erotic phantasm, the shadowy presence seems a creation of the photographer's mind. Private, nearly confessional, the image was entrusted to the care of the artist's good friend Clarence White, and has remained unknown until now.
Inscription: Inscribed in pencil, verso C: "F.H. Day // By, // C.H. White"
Mrs. Clarence White, Jr.; [Paul Katz, North Bennington, VT]; Gilman Paper Company Collection, New York, February 25, 1986
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection," May 25, 1993–July 4, 1993.
Edinburgh International Festival, Edinburgh, Scotland. "The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection," August 7, 1993–October 2, 1993.
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. "The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection," June 19, 1994–September 11, 1994.
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. "Lost Paradise: Symbolist Europe," June 8, 1995–October 15, 1995.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Pictorialism in New York, 1900-1915," February 10, 1998–May 31, 1998.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. "Fred Holland Day: Symbolist Photographer," December 6, 2000–March 25, 2001.
Van Gogh Museum. "Fred Holland Day: Symbolist Photographer," April 20, 2001–June 24, 2001.
Museum Villa Stuck. "Fred Holland Day: Symbolist Photographer," July 18, 2001–September 30, 2001.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Lens and the Mirror, Part 1: Modern Self-Portraits from the Collection," April 7–July 12, 2009, no catalogue.
Brian T. Allen, Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy. "Making a Presence: F. Holland Day in Artistic Photography," March 27, 2012–July 31, 2012.
Hambourg, Maria Morris, Pierre Apraxine, Malcolm Daniel, Virginia Heckert, and Jeff L. Rosenheim. The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1993. no. 137.
Fusco, Coco, and Brian Wallis, ed. Only Skin Deep: Changing Visions of the American Self. New York: International Center of Photography, 2003. p. 67.
Fairbrother, Trevor. Making a Presence: F. Holland Day in Artistic Photography. Andover: Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, 2012. no. 42.