Tuesday, September 2, 2008
The album, or portfolio, from which the following images come was published in Paris in 1923. It is a collection of 100 loose photogravures, collected between front and back boards closed with ribbon ties.
The title is Nus: Cent Photographies Originales de Laryew, and it was published by the Librairie des Arts Décoratifs.
So who was Laryew? You will look in vain for an entry on him in any photographic reference book. That is because, in deference to the naughty subject matter, it is a pseudonym. Not a very serious one, for it is simply a scrambled version of the name under which the photographer had worked all his life, Walery.
Walery’s real name was Stanislaw Julian Ignacy, Count Ostroróg. He was of Lithuanian origin. He was born in 1863, the year in which his father – the original Walery – took British citizenship. The father, who was born in Lithuania, set up a photographic studio in Marseilles, then Paris, before moving to London to open a highly successful studio, first on Conduit Street, then Regent Street.
The son took over the business in 1890, going into partnership with Alfred Ellis until 1900, when he moved to Paris. In 2005 the National Portrait Gallery, London, staged an exhibition of work by Walery, father and son, under the title Victorian Women. All of the subjects in that show were rigidly corseted and highly respectable, unlike our daring Art Deco beauties.
Once he moved to Paris, our Walery added risqué studies of the girls of the Folies Bergère to his lucrative staple of high society portraits. The models for Nus are probably dancers from the Folies. Walery’s photographs of them, arranged like so many Art Deco caryatids, are now recognised as masterpieces of Art Deco photography. Walery died in 1935.