Adolphe de Meyer’s Visions of Japan at the Turn of the Century

25.02.2020

WordsSolenn Cordroc'h

Fashion Eye, Japan - Adolphe de Meyer, Louis Vuitton

Citizen of the world, insatiable traveller and fashion photographer, the Baron Adolphe de Meyer visited Japan in spring 1900 with his wife Olga Caracciolo. From Buddhist temples in Kyoto to Shinto sanctuaries in Nikko, or the Ueno Park in Tokyo, Adolphe de Meyer transcribed his travels in photographs, and now Louis Vuitton’s publishing house have compiled these rare documents. These momentos from the turn of the century are to be published in a stunning work entitled ‘Japan Adolphe de Meyer’.

Born in Paris, de Meyer received a European education which opened him up to the world. Moving from Paris to London to New York, he spent summers in Venice and Constantinople and winters in Saint-Moritz. In the springtime of 1900 he and his wife left for Asia for their honeymoon. Over the ensuing months they travelled through China, India, Sri Lanka and Japan.

Fashion Eye, Japan - Adolphe de Meyer, Louis Vuitton

Adept at artificial lighting and scenography, thanks to his experience as a fashion photographer, Adolphe de Meyer nonetheless captured an entirely different vision of Japan through his sober and streamlined photographs, where natural light illuminated harmonious natural scenes, devoid of any human presence. Only a few silhouettes make it into his images, abstract and seen from behind, skilfully avoiding the stereotyping that often befell other foreign photographers, keen to depict an idealised version of Japan.

Upon his return to London, Adolphe de Meyer continued to live by the influence of Japanese aesthetics which can be seen in his fashion photographs. Even with the limited space of an inside studio, he was able to fill his images with details and patterns, the light and shade a silent echo of his voyages through Japan. While the majority of Adolphe de Meyer’s Japan photographs were destroyed by the photographer himself, a few were preciously conserved and can be found at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, now reproduced for Louis Vuitton’s ‘Japan Adolphe de Meyer’.

Fashion Eye, Japan - Adolphe de Meyer, Louis Vuitton

Fashion Eye, Japan - Adolphe de Meyer, Louis Vuitton

Fashion Eye, Japan - Adolphe de Meyer, Louis Vuitton

Fashion Eye, Japan - Adolphe de Meyer, Louis Vuitton

Fashion Eye, Japan - Adolphe de Meyer, Louis Vuitton

Fashion Eye, Japan - Adolphe de Meyer, Louis Vuitton