WILHELM VON GLOEDEN, German photographer born in Wismar, Germany (d: 1931). At the turn of the 20th century photographs by von Gloeden were circulating all over Europe. He is mostly known for his pastoral nude studies of Sicilian boys, which usually featured props such as wreaths or amphorae suggesting a setting in the Greece or Italy of antiquity. Von Gloeden claimed to be minor German aristocrat from Mecklenburg.

Suffering from what was probably tuberculosis, he came to  Taormina in Sicily in 1876. He was wealthy, and scrupulously shared the proceeds of his sales with his models, providing a considerable economic boost in this comparatively poor region of Italy, which might explain why the Gay aspects of his life and work were generally tolerated by the locals. The von Gloeden family insisted that his claim to The Barony von Gloeden was without warrant.

From a modern standpoint, his work is commendable due to his controlled use of lighting, as well as the often elegant poses of his male models. Innovative use of photographic filters and special body make-up contribute to the artistic perfection of his works. Famous in his own day, his work was subsequently eclipsed for close to a century, only to re-emerge in recent times as “the most important Gay visual artist of the pre–World War I era” according to Thomas Waugh.

The beautiful young men he took pictures of, usually semi-nude, were all from the Sicilian town of Taormina. In total the Baron took over 3,000 images, which after his death were left to one of his models, Pancrazio Buciuni, also known as Il Moro for his North African looks. Il Moro had been Von Gloeden’s lover since the age of fourteen, when he had first joined the household of the Baron. In 1936, over 2,500 of the pictures were destroyed by Mussolini’s police under the allegation that they constituted pornography. Most of the surviving images therefore come from private collections, including the Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation and Gallery in New York City.

For more, and images: http://www.artnet.com/artists/baron-wilhelm-von-gloeden/