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F. Holland Day was a largely self-taught photographer, connoisseur, and collector; a great admirer of Oscar Wilde; a publisher in the mold of British Arts and Crafts leader William Morris; and, briefly, an influential promoter of Pictorialism, as turn-of-the-century artistic photography was then called. His own photographs were daring and poetic, tackling subjects—such as the life of Christ—that most others felt were ill-suited to the medium.

Even when masked in the guise of history, allegory, or religion, as in this case, Day’s male figure studies—many of them nudes—also have an undeniable element of eroticism. The artist’s sexuality was not discussed at the time, but the aesthete Day’s lifelong bachelorhood, his admiration and publication of Wilde and Aubrey Beardsley, his flamboyant manner, and his ongoing interest in photographing male nudes leads one to conclude that these studies were more than mere forays into the exotic or demonstrations of technical prowess in studio lighting and subtle platinum printing.

Details

  • Title: Pilate
  • Creator: F. Holland Day
  • Date: 1906
  • Physical Dimensions: w20.5 x h24.8 cm (sheet)
  • Type: Photographs
  • External Link: MFAH
  • Medium: Platinum print from glass negative
  • Credit Line: The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, museum purchase funded by the Caroline Wiess Law Accessions Endowment Fund, The Manfred Heiting Collection

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