A member of the "international set" in fin-de-siècle Europe, Baron Adolf de Meyer (1868–1946) was also a pioneering photographer, known for creating works that transformed reality into a beautiful fantasy. Quicksilver Brilliance is the first museum exhibition devoted to the artist in more than twenty years and the first ever at The Met. Some forty works, drawn entirely from The Met collection, demonstrate the impressive breadth of his career.
The exhibition includes dazzling portraits of well-known figures of his time: the American socialite Rita de Acosta Lydig; art patron and designer Count Étienne de Beaumont; aristocrat and society hostess Lady Ottoline Morrell; and celebrated entertainer Josephine Baker, among others. A highlight of the presentation is an exceptional book—one of only seven known copies—documenting Nijinsky's scandalous 1912 ballet L'Après-midi d'un faune. This rare album represents de Meyer's great success in capturing the movement and choreography of dance, a breakthrough in the history of photography. Also on view are the artist's early snapshots made in Japan, experiments with color processes, and inventive fashion photographs.
In this Now at The Met blog post, exhibition curator Beth Saunders explores two of Adolf de Meyer's great muses: the arts and culture of Japan, and his wife, Olga.
Adolf de Meyer (American [born France], 1868–1946). Etienne de Beaumont (detail), ca. 1923. Gelatin silver print, 9 5/16 x 7 5/16 in. (23.7 x 18.6 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Paul F. Walter, 2008 (2009.460.7)