Quicksilver Brilliance: Adolf de Meyer Photographs at The Met Fifth Avenue, through April 7, 2018

“A member of the “international set” in fin-de-siècle Europe, Baron Adolf de Meyer (1868–1946) was also a pioneering art, portrait, and fashion photographer, known for creating images that transformed reality into a beautiful fantasy. The “quicksilver brilliance” that characterized de Meyer’s art led fellow photographer Cecil Beaton to dub him the “Debussy of the Camera.”

Quicksilver Brilliance: Adolf de Meyer Photographs will be the first museum exhibition devoted to the artist in more than 20 years and the first ever at The Met. Some 40 works, drawn entirely from The Met collection, will reveal 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 choreography of dance, a breakthrough in the history of photography. Also on view is the artist’s early snapshots made in Japan, experiments with color processes, and inventive fashion photographs.” — The Met

Adolf de Meyer, American (born France), 1868–1946. Plate from Le Prelude à l’Après-Midi d’un Faune, 1914. Collotype. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005.

Adolf de Meyer, American (born France), 1868–1946. The Shadows on the Wall. “Crysanthemums,” ca. 1906. Platinum print. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1933.

Adolf de Meyer, American (born France), 1868–1946. Rita de Acosta Lydig, ca. 1917. Platinum print. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Mercedes de Acosta, 1952.

Adolf de Meyer, American (born France), 1868–1946. Etienne de Beaumont, ca. 1923. Gelatin silver print. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Paul F. Walter, 2009.

Adolf de Meyer, American (born France), 1868–1946. Josephine Baker, 1925–26. Gum bichromate over platinum print. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Ford Motor Company Collection, Gift of Ford Motor Company and John C. Waddell, 1987.

The exhibition was organized by Beth Saunders, Assistant Curator in The Met’s Department of Photographs.

Images courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art.