Profile of Adolph de Meyer
Baron Adolph de Meyer (1 September 1868 – 6 January 1946) was a photographer famed for his photographic portraits in the early 20th century, many of which depicted celebrities such as Mary Pickford, Rita Lydig, Luisa Casati, Billie Burke, Irene Castle, John Barrymore, Lillian Gish, Ruth St. Denis, King George V, and Queen Mary. He was also the first official fashion photographer for the American magazine Vogue, appointed to that position in 1913.
Biography of Adolph Meyer
Reportedly born in Paris and educated in Dresden, Adolphus Meyer was the son of a German Jewish father and Scottish mother.
In 1893, he joined the Royal Photographic Society and moved to London in 1895.
He used the surnames Meyer, von Meyer, de Meyer, de Meyer-Watson, and Meyer-Watson at various times in his life. From 1897, he was known as Baron Adolph Edward Sigismond de Meyer, though some contemporary sources list him as Baron Adolph von Meyer and Baron Adolph de Meyer-Watson. From 1898 to 1913, de Meyer lived in fashionable Cadogan Gardens, London.
In editions dating from 1898 until 1913, Whitaker's Peerage stated that de Meyer's title had been granted in 1897 by Frederick Augustus III of Saxony, and another source states "the photographer inherited it from his grandfather in the 1890s".
On 25 July 1899, Adolph de Meyer married Donna Olga Caracciolo, an Italian noblewoman who had been divorced earlier that year(some said she was a goddaughter of Edward VII). Olga would be the subject of many of her husband's photographs.
The de Meyers' marriage was one of convenience rather than romantic love because the groom was homosexual and the bride was bisexual or lesbian. As Baron de Meyer wrote in an unpublished autobiographical novel, before they wed, he explained to Olga "the real meaning of love shorn of any kind of sensuality". He continued by observing, "Marriage based too much on love and unrestrained passion has rarely a chance to be lasting, whilst perfect understanding and companionship, on the contrary, generally make the most durable union.
From 1903 to 1907, his work was published in Alfred Stieglitz's quarterly Camera Work. Cecil Beaton dubbed him "the Debussy of photography". In 1912, he photographed Nijinsky in Paris.
On the outbreak of World War I, the de Meyers moved to New York City, where Adolph Meyer became a photographer for Vogue from 1913 to 1921, and for Vanity Fair.
In 1922, he accepted an offer to become the chief photographer for Harper's Bazaar in Paris, spending the next 16 years there.
After the death of his wife in 1931, Baron de Meyer became romantically involved with a young German, Ernest Frohlich whom he hired as his chauffeur and later adopted as his son. The latter went by the name Baron Ernest Frohlich de Meyer.
Adolph Meyer died in Los Angeles on the anniversary of his wife's death, 6 January 1946, and was buried in Los Angeles County, California.
Today, few of his prints survive, most having been destroyed during World War II but some 52 photographs of Olga, packed by his adopted son Ernest, came to light in 1988 and were published in 1992.