The son of a forestry
commissioner, Baron Wilhelm von Gloeden was born in 1856 at Volkshagen
Palace near Wismar, Germany. He attended the art academy in Weimar as a
pupil of Carl Gehrts, a painter of historical scenes. He learned
photography from his cousin who was a professional photographer and it was
in this medium that he rose to fame. He is now widely considered one of
the pioneers of artistic nude photography, and is especially famous for
his images of young males.
During his early twenties Wilhelm developed a serious lung ailment, and at
the encouragement of his doctor, he moved to the warmer island climate of
Sicily. He settled in the village of Taormina, which for a time was only
accessible by mule from the Giardini coast. It was nonetheless, a favorite
destination for intellectuals and tourists who came for the idyllic
location and historic monuments. Wilhelm was quick to perceive the earthly
paradise that surrounded him and fell in love with the local people and
their carefree ways.
The images featured in Taormina were taken between 1878 and 1914
and feature his subjects crowned in wreathes and draped in togas, posing
as "little gods" amidst the ancient landscape of the island. The
sixty featured photographs are accompanied by a fascinating written
history of Wilhelm and his times by Ulrich Pohlmann. This book is one of
those rare gems that all collectors should seek to possess.