Celebrity Photos in the Jazz Age

Josephine Baker, 1925–26. Photo: Adolf de Meyer

This week the Metropolitan Museum of Art will open a photography exhibition by Adolf de Meyer, Vogue’s first-ever staff photographer. He worked there with an additional contract at Vanity Fair from 1914-1921. As a portraitist, he became famous for images of people like entertainer Josephine Baker, Queen Mary, and socialite Rita de Acosta Lydig. And like a true member of the 1920s socialite scene, he boldly reinvented himself and his origin story: He said he was born in Paris, but he was actually born in Germany. He apparently added the “de” in his name for a certain je ne sais quoi. And he started calling himself Baron Adolf de Meyer after his wife Olga claimed she was the illegitimate daughter of the Prince of Wales.

After Condé Nast, de Meyer returned to Paris to work at Harper’s Bazaar and photographed the era’s elegance until the 1930s, when his Pictorialist approach was deemed old-fashioned. World War II pushed him back to the U.S., and when he died in Hollywood in 1946, he was virtually unknown. The Met’s exhibit includes 40 de Meyer photographs from the museum’s collection and opens December 4. Click ahead for a preview.

Quicksilver Brilliance: Adolf de Meyer Photographs” is on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art from December 4 to March 18, 2018.

Photo: Adolf de Meyer

Rita de Acosta Lydig, ca. 1917

Platinum print. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Mercedes de Acosta, 1952 (68.615).

Photo: Adolph de Meyer

Plate from Le Prelude à l’Après-Midi d’un Faune, 1914

Collotype. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005 (2005.100.1299).

Photo: Adolf de Meyer

The Shadows on the Wall, “Crysanthemums,” ca. 1906

Platinum Print. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1933 (33.43.231).

Photo: Adolf de Meyer

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 (1987.1100.16).

Photo: Adolf de Meyer

Etienne de Beaumont, ca. 1923

Gelatin Silver Print. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Paul F. Walter, 2009.

A Celebrity Photographer in the Jazz Age