Von Gloeden in self portraits
Before George Platt Lynes, Horst, Bruce Webber, or Richard Avedon, there was Wilhelm von Gloeden. Quite famous in his own day, his work was mostly forgotten for close to a century, only to rediscovered in recent times as the most important gay visual artist of the pre–WW I era.
Because of ill health, von Gloeden left his native Germany in 1877, moving to Taormina in Sicily, where he remained until his death in 1931. The mayor of Taormina was the German landscape painter Otto Geleng, who had moved there in 1863. Through him von Gloeden soon became acquainted with the locals. He set up his photographic studio in Taormina, & was exhibiting his work internationally by 1890.
Today von Gloeden is mainly known for his male nudes, but in his time he was also famous for his landscape photography that helped popularize tourism to Italy. He took over 7000 images, which after his death were left to one of his models- Pancrazio Buciunì, von Gloeden's lover from the age of 15. In 1933 some 1000 glass negatives from von Gloeden's collection & 2000 prints were confiscated by Mussolini's Fascist police under the allegation that they were pornography & destroyed; another 1000 negatives were destroyed in 1936, although Buciuni was tried & cleared of possessing pornographic images. Most of the surviving pictures are now in the Fratelli Alinari photographic archive in Florence.
The images that survive are startling for their technical accomplishment: his controlled use of lighting & elegant, classical poses of his models, innovative use of filters & special body makeup to disguise skin blemishes contribute to the artistic perfection of his works, & to their sexual heat. They became popular as postcards in Europe & the USA, often “under the counter”. Von Gloeden was wealthy & shared his profits with his models & funded small businesses in the area, which critics say may explain why the locals tolerated his homosexuality & the increasing tourist trade interested in the young dark skinned young men.
I see a connection between the centuries from Von Gloeden to Warhol.
I was familiar with this image for years without knowing
about the man responsible.