Fred Holland Day

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F. Holland Day, 1911, photographer unknown

Fred Holland Day (born July 8, 1864 in South Dedham, now Norwood , Massachusetts , † November 12, 1933 there ) was an American photographer , publisher and philanthropist . Day, a member of the Brotherhood of the Linked Ring photographers' association , is now regarded as an important thought leader in artistic photography ; He was one of the first photographers to demand that photography belong to the “ fine arts ”. With his pathetic and symbolistic productions he is attributed to pictorialism .


Day was the only son of a wealthy Boston merchant family , which gave him financial independence throughout his life. Lewis Day father was a leather merchant and entrepreneur and mother Anna Smith Day was a philanthropist devoted to charitable causes . Fred Holland Day was strongly influenced by his mother's social streak. Building on the material and internalized spiritual foundations he had taken over, he tried to integrate them practically into his life and, above all, to apply them to his immediate and wider surroundings after 1900. Fred Holland Day's lifelong passions were also art, photography and literature. In his early twenties he had already amassed an extensive private library with works by the English romantic John Keats and the French writer Honoré de Balzac .

Day stood in the tradition of aestheticism and dealt with the works of Walter Pater or Algernon Swinburne . Inspired by the Arts and Crafts Movement , he and Herbert Copeland founded the Copeland and Day publishing house in 1884 , which, following the example of William Morris ' Kelmscott Press, specializes in magnificently presented, hand-bound single editions of English literature with works by, among others, Dante Gabriel Rossetti or Oscar Wilde , a friend by Day, specialized. Copeland and Day published the American first edition of Wildes Salome with the significant illustrations by Aubrey Beardsley , the art and literary magazine The Chap-Book , an adaptation of the British Yellow Book , a mouthpiece of decadence , and the volume of poetry The Black Riders and Other Lines by Stephen Crane . Despite the publication of about a hundred books and periodicals, the company was not very successful economically. The publisher existed until 1899.

Day began taking photographs around 1886. He also dealt with the connection between photography and painting as a writer and, as one of the first photographers, demanded recognition and membership of photography in the visual arts in numerous exhibitions and symposia . Day's own work was received very controversially in terms of its homoerotic subjects - mostly naked male nudes - during his lifetime.

Fred Holland Day: The Last Seven Words of Christ , Self-Portraits as Christ with a Crown of Thorns, 1898

Although he did not belong to any particular faith himself, Day dealt with Christian topics from 1896 to 1898 . A visit to Oberammergau in 1890 inspired him to write a Passions series. He caused a riot in the summer of 1898 because he was recreating a crucifixion scene on a hill for a series of photos . His neighbors from his place of residence, Norwood, assisted him - sometimes disguised as Roman legionaries . He himself took on the role of Jesus Christ . The series, called The Last Seven Words of Christ , was designed to depict Jesus' last seven words . Day produced around two hundred photographs with crucifixion motifs. When The Last Seven Words was unveiled in the Philadelphia Salon , it received heavy reviews. Another theme for Day was travel photography . A portrait that his distant younger cousin Alvin Langdon Coburn took of him shows him in Arabic robes ( Portrait of F. Holland Day in Arab Costume , around 1900).

Day only used platinum printing for his work because he found all other printing processes to be inadequate, whereby he usually only produced a single print per negative. When platinum became unaffordable during World War I , Day stopped photography entirely.

The Day House in Norwood

Day spent a lot of time with immigrant children in need in Boston. He supervised and taught her to read. One of his pupils was from Lebanon originating Khalil Gibran , who later as a painter and writer and author of the book Wisdom The Prophet was known. F. Holland Day's closer circle of friends included Aubrey Beardsley, whose sponsor he was, the poet Louise Imogen Guiney and the architect Ralph Adams Cram.

Day had a photo studio in Boston until 1916. In later years he became bedridden. He died in 1933 in his childhood home in Norwood, now open to the public as The Day House .


Reginald W. Craigie: Fred Holland Day , around 1900

Despite some criticism, Fred Holland Day enjoyed high recognition in Boston and in American photography circles. The highlight of his photographic career is the organization of the exhibition New School of American Photography at the Royal Photographic Society in London in 1900. He showed 375 photographs by 42 photographers, including 103 of his own works. With the exception of Alfred Stieglitz , who refused to take part, all the well-known art photographers were represented: Frank Eugene , Gertrude Käsebier , Edward Steichen , Clarence Hudson White and, as a newcomer, Alvin Langdon Coburn, who also helped with the hanging of the works. The exhibition attracted considerable attention, was partially highly praised and yet some critics panned . The Photographic News saw the exhibition as “the outgrowth of a pathological fantasy that feeds on the frenzies of some madmen. ... These are just attempts to be unacademic, unconventional and eccentric at any cost ”. The show was then shown in the Paris Photo Club.

F. Holland Day was largely forgotten in the 20th century; On the one hand, he was ousted by his rival Alfred Stieglitz ( Day had turned down invitations to membership in his Photo-Secession ), pictorialist photography was soon considered unfashionable and homosexual subjects were largely excluded from the art world with the advent of modernism; on the other hand, a fire in 1904 destroyed the majority of Days' prints and negatives. The little surviving material was given to the Royal Photographic Society after his death in the 1930s.

Day's photographs have only experienced an appropriate reception in the present and have been increasingly shown in a museum context and dealt with in academic texts since the 1990s. The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston showed an extensive retrospective of his work in 2000/2001.



  • Estelle Jussim: Slave to Beauty: The Eccentric Life and Controversial Career of F. Holland Day . DRGodine Publishers, 1981, ISBN 0-87923-346-X
  • Stephen M. Parrish: Currents of the Nineties in Boston and London: Fred Holland Day, Louise Imogen Guiney, and Their Circle . Taylor & Francis, 1987, ISBN 0-8240-0069-2
  • Verna Posever Curtis, Jane Van Nimmen: F. Holland Day: Selected Texts and Bibliography . Clio Press, 1995, ISBN 1-85109-227-7
  • F. Holland Day: Suffering the Ideal . Edition Stemmle, Zurich 1995, ISBN 978-0-944092-33-0
  • Samuel Coale et al .: New Perspectives on F. Holland Day . Stonehill College, 1998, ISBN 0-9660964-1-X
  • Patricia J. Fanning: Through an Uncommon Lens: The Life and Photography of F. Holland Day , University of Massachusetts Press, 2008, ISBN 978-1-55849-668-2

Web links

Commons : Fred Holland Day  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Different biographies give July 23, 1864 as the date of birth and November 2, 1933 as the date of death. Source: Pam Roberts, Fred Holland Day ( September 6, 2004 memento in the Internet Archive ) , Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography. Retrieved October 4, 2012
  2. ^ A b Pam Roberts: Fred Holland Day. Archived from the original on September 6, 2004 ; Retrieved October 4, 2012 .
  3. a b Beaumont Newhall: History of Photography ; in the American original: History of Photography: From 1839 to the Present . New York 1937; German translation by Schirmer / Mosel, Munich 1984, ISBN 3-88814-319-5 , pp. 163–164
  4. ^ Anne Hammond: The Pictorialist Photography ; in: New History of Photography . Könemann, Cologne 1998, ISBN 3-8290-1327-2 , p. 301
  5. ^ Norwood Historical Society: The Day House