Wife Olga de Meyer, Partner Ernest Frohlich
1 Cadogan Gardens, Chelsea, London SW3 2RJ, Regno Unito
Forest Lawn Memorial-Parks & Mortuaries, 1712 S Glendale Ave, Glendale, CA 91205, Stati Uniti
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 of the United Kingdom, and Queen Mary. He was also the first official fashion photographer for the American magazine Vogue, appointed to that position in 1913. One of the most unusual aspects of the Stettheimers’ salon was the large number of their gay, bisexual, and lesbian friends and acquaintances, who were comfortable being their authentic selves among their straight friends. Several of the sisters’ closest friends, including Charles Demuth, Marsden Hartley, Henry McBride, Virgil Thomson, and Baron Adolph de Meyer (married to a lesbian, Olga Carracciolo) were homosexual; Carl Van Vechten, Cecil Beaton, and Georgia O’Keeffe were bisexual; Natalie Barney and Romaine Brooks were lesbians; and Alfred Stieglitz, Marcel Duchamp, Gaston Lachaise, Marie Sterner, and Leo Stein were heterosexual. This open, natural mix of friends with different sexual preferences continued when Stettheimer held salons in her studio in the Beaux Arts building in midtown Manhattan, although later in life she also had parties where most of the guests were strong feminist women.
Reportedly born in Paris and educated in Dresden, Adolphus Meyer was the son of a German Jewish father and Scottish mother—Adolphus Louis Meyer and his wife, the former Adele Watson.
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.
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, though another source states "the photographer inherited it from his grandfather in the 1890s". Some sources state that no evidence of this nobiliary creation, however, has been found.
On 25 July 1899, at Holy Trinity Church, Sloane Street, Cadogan Square, in London, England, de Meyer married Donna Olga Caracciolo, an Italian noblewoman who had been divorced earlier that year from Nobile Marino Brancaccio; some said she was a goddaughter of Edward VII. The couple reportedly met in 1897, at the home of a member of the Sassoon banking family, and Olga would be the subject of many of her husband's photographs.
The de Meyers' marriage was one of convenience rather than romantic love, since 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."
After the death of his wife in 1931, Baron de Meyer became romantically involved with a young German, Ernest Frohlich (born circa 1914), whom he hired as his chauffeur and later adopted as his son. The latter went by the name Baron Ernest Frohlich de Meyer.
From 1898 to 1913 de Meyer lived in fashionable Cadogan Gardens, London, and between 1903 and 1907 his work was published in Alfred Stieglitz's quarterly Camera Work. Cecil Beaton dubbed him "the Debussy of photography". In 1912 he photographed Vaslav Nijinsky in Paris.
On the outbreak of World War I, the de Meyers, who in 1916 took the new names of Mahrah and Gayne, on the advice of an astrologer, moved to New York City, where he became a photographer for Vogue from 1913–21, and for Vanity Fair. In 1922 de Meyer accepted an offer to become the Harper's Bazaar chief photographer in Paris, spending the next 16 years there.
On the eve of World War II in 1938, de Meyer returned to the United States. Today, few of his prints survive, most having been destroyed during World War II but some 52 photographs of Olga, packed away by his adopted son Ernest, came to light in 1988 and were published in 1992.
He died in Los Angeles on the anniversary of his wife's death, 6 January 1946, he being registered as 'Gayne Adolphus Demeyer, writer (retired)', and was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale), Glendale, Los Angeles County, California.
Étienne de Beaumont
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