Posts Tagged ‘Adam and Eve

10
Jan
21

Exhibition: ‘Max Beckmann: feminine-masculine’ at Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg

Exhibition dates:

Curator: Dr Karin Schick

 

 

Max Beckmann. 'Early humans – primeval landscape' 1939 (revised 1947/48)

 

Max Beckmann (German, 1884-1950)
Frühe Menschen – Urlandschaft
Early humans – primeval landscape

1939 (revised 1947/48)
Gouache, watercolour and ink
49.8 x 64.5cm
Courtesy of Daxer & Marschall, München
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020
© Foto: Daxer & Marschall, München

 

 

If ever there were a time in history that I would like to go back to and work as an artist, it is most definitely the interwar years in Paris, or Berlin up until 1933 when the Nazis took control of German culture. I would have revelled in the freedom of expression, freedom of identity, sexuality, gender, New Objectivity (Neue Sachlichkeit), New Woman, news ways of experimentation, and new ways of thinking about the human condition (Jung, Freud, Benjamin). I would have been empowered as an artist to push the boundaries of conservative society, to break prescriptive and outdated cultural norms.

And so with Max Beckmann. There is a basic and fundamental feeling to his paintings, a primordial feeling, in which the artist breaks the boundaries of the taboo fully aware that there may be consequences for doing so. In his paintings Beckmann crafts his stories of passion, desire, mythology and the jouissance of everyday life, expressed through ever more delineated black-outlined caricatures which feature elongated claw-like hands, distorted bodies and mobile, multiple perspectives (see Das Bad (The bathroom) 1930, below). These paintings so generate and compose their own existence (their presence) – one which opposes conventional classical portraiture – that the Nazis labelled them De/generate Art. “Although not Jewish, he was beleaguered by the Nazis, who dismissed him from his teaching post in Frankfurt in 1933 and removed his “degenerate” work from public collections.” (NY Times)

As with any artist, the journey is the key to the development of the work. Look at the assured, slightly fey, well-dressed man in Beckmann’s classical Self-portrait, Florence (1907, below) and then compare it to his Self-Portrait with Horn (1938, below). In the first self-portrait Beckmann is aged 23, seemingly untouched by the vicissitudes of life, debonair, staring straight at the camera, ooh I mean mirror – sorry, canvas – the mouth held in a small thin line, eyes almost blank, cigarette in nonchalantly curled hand. Thirty one years later, age/d 54, Beckmann’s features (having lived through the desolation of the First World War, famine, revolution, the Great Depression, assassination, violence) are gnarled and wizened, his expression grim, his clothing that of a concentration camp inmate, his horn silent and occluded, reminding me of the hearing trumpet of the composer Beethoven. Unable to hear, not wanting to face, the clamour of the onrushing maelstrom.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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Many thankx to the Hamburger Kunsthalle for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Max Beckmann (German, 1884-1950) 'Self-portrait, Florence' 1907

 

Max Beckmann (German, 1884-1950)
Self-portrait, Florence
1907
Oil on canvas
98 x 90cm
Hamburger Kunsthalle Dauerleihgabe Nachlass Peter und Maja Beckmann
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020
© Hamburger Kunsthalle / bpk
Foto: Elke Walford

 

Max Beckmann (German, 1884-1950) 'Self-Portrait with Horn' 1938

 

Max Beckmann (German, 1884-1950)
Self-Portrait with Horn
1938
Oil on canvas
101 x 110cm
Neue Galerie New York and Private Collection
Used under fair use conditions

 

Max Beckmann (German, 1884-1950) 'Adam and Eve' 1917

 

Max Beckmann (German, 1884-1950)
Adam and Eve
1917
Oil on canvas
79.8 x 56.7cm
Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie
Erworben mit Unterstützung der Ernst von Siemens Kunststiftung
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020
© bpk / Nationalgalerie, SMB
Foto: André van Linn

 

Max Beckmann. 'Portrait of a Romanian (Portrait of Dr. Heidel)' 1922

 

Max Beckmann (German, 1884-1950)
Bildnis einer Rumänin (Bildnis Frau Dr. Heidel)
Portrait of a Romanian (Portrait of Dr. Heidel)
1922
Oil on canvas
100 x 65cm
Dauerleihgabe der Stiftung Hamburger Kunstsammlungen
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020
© SHK / Hamburger Kunsthalle / bpk
Foto: Elke Walford

 

Max Beckmann. 'Portrait of Käthe von Porada' 1924

 

Max Beckmann (German, 1884-1950)
Bildnis Käthe von Porada (Portrait of Käthe von Porada)
1924
Oil on canvas
120 x 43cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020
© Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK
Foto: U. Edelmann

 

Max Beckmann. 'Portrait of Ludwig Berger' 1945

 

Max Beckmann (German, 1884-1950)
Bildnis Ludwig Berger (Portrait of Ludwig Berger)
1945
Oil on canvas
135.6 x 90.9cm
Saint Louis Art Museum, Bequest of Morton D. May
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020
© Foto: Saint Louis Art Museum, Bequest of Morton D. May

 

Max Beckmann (German, 1884-1950) 'Das Bad' (The bathroom) 1930

 

Max Beckmann (German, 1884-1950)
Das Bad (The bathroom)
1930
Oil on canvas
174.9 x 121.3cm
Saint Louis Art Museum, Bequest of Morton D. May
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020
© Foto: Saint Louis Art Museum, Bequest of Morton D. May

 

 

Max Beckmann: feminine-masculine is the first exhibition to examine in detail the often contradictory roles played by women and men in the works of Max Beckmann (1884-1950), one of the great artists of modernism and a potent interpreter of his times. With some 140 paintings, sculptures and works on paper, the show demonstrates the impressive breadth of this subject area in the artist’s oeuvre while enabling viewers to come to a deeper understanding of Beckmann’s multifaceted art. Important loans from public and private collections in Germany and abroad – including the Max Beckmann Estate, the Städel Museum, Frankfurt on the Main, the Saint Louis Art Museum, Missouri / USA, and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam – supplement the Hamburger Kunsthalle’s extensive Beckmann holdings.

The exhibition explores both the historical significance of Beckmann’s paintings as well as their relevance in today’s world. His incisive self-portraits, his double portraits with his wives, the stately likenesses of his sponsors and patrons as well as his mythological and biblical figure paintings compellingly evoke basic constants of human togetherness: desire, devotion and conflict, power and powerlessness, the urge for freedom and the longing to become one with another human being.

Beckmann both exaggerated and blurred gender roles; he discovered tenderness in both female and male figures, power in the heroine as well as the hero. Fascinated by the myths of different cultures, he was familiar with the age-old notion that male and female once split off from a single, androgynous gender and are doomed to yearn forever to be reunified. The artist also read and commented on contemporary writings by Carl Gustav Jung and Otto Weininger that are still the subject of frequent discussion today and which explain individuality as a combination of female and male elements. Beckmann nonetheless liked to style himself as a manfully resolute interpreter of the world, an image that to this day dominates the reception of his work, hindering a more open understanding of his many-layered art.

Accompanying the exhibition are a richly illustrated scholarly catalogue (Prestel Verlag, Munich), an audio guide and regular theme-based guided tours (Saturdays at 3 pm). The museum education offerings uncover multiple perspectives on Beckmann’s art and enable visitors to take part in an on-site dialogue between the curator and further experts (for example on gender research). On 15 January 2021, the Kunsthalle will also host a public, international symposium on Beckmann’s multifaceted examination of the topic of “femaleness and masculinity”.

The exhibition Max Beckmann: feminine-masculine is a true highlight on the Hamburger Kunsthalle’s agenda for 2020. It represents a further instalment in a series of highly acclaimed exhibitions devoted to Beckmann’s art, including Self-Portraits (1993), Landscape as Stranger (1998) and Max Beckmann: The Still Lifes (2014).

Press release from the Hamburger Kunsthalle

 

Max Beckmann. 'Double portrait (Max and Mathilde Beckmann)' 1941

 

Max Beckmann (German, 1884-1950)
Doppelbildnis (Max und Mathilde Beckmann)
Double portrait (Max and Mathilde Beckmann)
1941
Oil on canvas
193.5 x 89cm
Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020
© Foto: Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam

 

Max Beckmann (German, 1884-1950) 'Messingstadt' 1944

 

Max Beckmann (German, 1884-1950)
Messingstadt (City of Brass)
1944
Oil on canvas
115 x 150cm
Saarlandmuseum – Moderne Galerie, Saarbrücken, Stiftung Saarländischer Kulturbesitz
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020
© Saarlandmuseum – Moderne Galerie, Saarbrücken, Stiftung Saarländischer Kulturbesitz
Foto: Tom Gundelwein

 

 

Max Beckmann addresses the relationship between man and woman as the starting point for the repetitive torments of human existence. In this question too, he is inspired by the archetype of the fairy tale Messingstadt “Brass City”. (From “The Thousand and One Nights” or “Arabian nights”) In this story it is the hero Musa who manages to get inside the brass city. He enters a palace where he discovers a girl as “beautiful as the shining sun”. At the same time, he realises that it’s just her lifeless body.

Note: The Thousand and One Nights, also called The Arabian Nights, Arabic Alf laylah wa laylah, collection of largely Middle Eastern and Indian stories of uncertain date and authorship. Its tales of Aladdin, Ali Baba, and Sindbad the Sailor have almost become part of Western folklore, though these were added to the collection only in the 18th century in European adaptations.

 

Max Beckmann (German, 1884-1950) 'Odysseus and Calypso' 1943

 

Max Beckmann (German, 1884-1950)
Odysseus and Calypso
1943
Oil on canvas
150 x 115.5cm
Hamburger Kunsthalle
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020
© Hamburger Kunsthalle / bpk
Foto: Elke Walford

 

 

Max Beckmann

Max Carl Friedrich Beckmann (February 12, 1884 – December 27, 1950) was a German painter, draftsman, printmaker, sculptor, and writer. Although he is classified as an Expressionist artist, he rejected both the term and the movement. In the 1920s, he was associated with the New Objectivity (Neue Sachlichkeit), an outgrowth of Expressionism that opposed its introverted emotionalism. His work became full of horrifying imagery and distorted forms with combination of brutal realism and social criticism.

 

Life

Max Beckmann was born into a middle-class family in Leipzig, Saxony. From his youth he pitted himself against the old masters. His traumatic experiences of World War I, in which he volunteered as a medical orderly, coincided with a dramatic transformation of his style from academically correct depictions to a distortion of both figure and space, reflecting his altered vision of himself and humanity.

He is known for the self-portraits painted throughout his life, their number and intensity rivalled only by those of Rembrandt and Picasso. Well-read in philosophy and literature, Beckmann also contemplated mysticism and theosophy in search of the “Self”. As a true painter-thinker, he strove to find the hidden spiritual dimension in his subjects (Beckmann’s 1948 Letters to a Woman Painter provides a statement of his approach to art).

Beckmann enjoyed great success and official honours during the Weimar Republic. In 1925 he was selected to teach a master class at the Städelschule Academy of Fine Art in Frankfurt. Some of his most famous students included Theo Garve, Leo Maillet and Marie-Louise von Motesiczky. In 1927 he received the Honorary Empire Prize for German Art and the Gold Medal of the City of Düsseldorf; the National Gallery in Berlin acquired his painting The Bark and, in 1928, purchased his Self-Portrait in Tuxedo. By the early 1930s, a series of major exhibitions, including large retrospectives at the Städtische Kunsthalle Mannheim (1928) and in Basel and Zurich (1930), together with numerous publications, showed the high esteem in which Beckmann was held.

His fortunes changed with the rise to power of Adolf Hitler, whose dislike of Modern Art quickly led to its suppression by the state. In 1933, the Nazi government called Beckmann a “cultural Bolshevik” and dismissed him from his teaching position at the Art School in Frankfurt. In 1937 the government confiscated more than 500 of his works from German museums, putting several on display in the notorious Degenerate Art exhibition in Munich. The day after Hitler’s radio speech about degenerate art in 1937, Beckmann left Germany with his second wife, Quappi, for the Netherlands.

For ten years, Beckmann lived in self-imposed exile in Amsterdam, failing in his desperate attempts to obtain a visa for the United States. In 1944 the Germans attempted to draft him into the army, although the sixty-year-old artist had suffered a heart attack. The works completed in his Amsterdam studio were even more powerful and intense than the ones of his master years in Frankfurt. They included several large triptychs, which stand as a summation of Beckmann’s art.

In 1948, Beckmann moved to the United States. During the last three years of his life, he taught at the art schools of Washington University in St. Louis (with the German-American painter and printmaker Werner Drewes) and the Brooklyn Museum. He came to St. Louis at the invitation of Perry T. Rathbone, who was director of the Saint Louis Art Museum. Rathbone arranged for Washington University in St. Louis to hire Beckmann as an art teacher, filling a vacancy left by Philip Guston, who had taken a leave. The first Beckmann retrospective in the United States took place in 1948 at the City Art Museum, Saint Louis. In St. Louis, Morton D. May became his patron and, already an avid amateur photographer and painter, a student of the artist. May later donated much of his large collection of Beckmann’s works to the St. Louis Art Museum. Beckmann also helped him learn to appreciate Oceanian and African art. After stops in Denver and Chicago, he and Quappi took an apartment at 38 West 69th Street in Manhattan. In 1949 he obtained a professorship at the Brooklyn Museum Art School.

He suffered from angina pectoris and died after Christmas 1950, struck down by a heart attack at the corner of 69th Street and Central Park West in New York, not far from his apartment building. As the artist’s widow recalled, he was on his way to see one of his paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Beckmann had a one-man show at the Venice Biennale of 1950, the year of his death.

 

Themes

Unlike several of his avant-garde contemporaries, Beckmann rejected non-representational painting; instead, he took up and advanced the tradition of figurative painting. He greatly admired not only Cézanne and Van Gogh, but also Blake, Rembrandt, and Rubens, as well as Northern European artists of the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance, such as Bosch, Bruegel, and Matthias Grünewald. His style and method of composition are partially rooted in the imagery of medieval stained glass.

Engaging with the genres of portraiture, landscape, still life, and history painting, his diverse body of work created a very personal but authentic version of modernism, one with a healthy deference to traditional forms. Beckmann reinvented the religious triptych and expanded this archetype of medieval painting into an allegory of contemporary humanity.

From his beginnings in the fin de siècle to the period after World War II, Beckmann reflected an era of radical changes in both art and history in his work. Many of Beckmann’s paintings express the agonies of Europe in the first half of the 20th century. Some of his imagery refers to the decadent glamour of the Weimar Republic’s cabaret culture, but from the 1930s on, his works often contain mythologised references to the brutalities of the Nazis. Beyond these immediate concerns, his subjects and symbols assume a larger meaning, voicing universal themes of terror, redemption, and the mysteries of eternity and fate.

His Self-Portrait with Horn (1938), painted during his exile in Amsterdam, demonstrates his use of symbols. Musical instruments are featured in many of his paintings; in this case, a horn that the artist holds as if it were a telescope by which he intends to explore the darkness surrounding him. The tight framing of the figure within the boundaries of the canvas emphasise his entrapment. Art historian Cornelia Stabenow terms the painting “the most melancholy, but also the most mystifying, of his self-portraits”.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Max Beckmann (German, 1884-1950) 'Venus – Mars' 1945

 

Max Beckmann (German, 1884-1950)
Venus – Mars
1945
India ink and watercolour
36,2 x 19.5cm
Private collection
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020
© Foto: Privatbesitz

 

Max Beckmann. 'Two women (in glass door)' 1940

 

Max Beckmann (German, 1884-1950)
Zwei Frauen (in Glastür)
Two women (in glass door)
1940
Oil on canvas
80 x 61cm
Museum Ludwig, Köln
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020
© Foto: Rheinisches Bildarchiv Köln

 

 

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10
Aug
13

Exhibition: ‘The Naked Truth and More Besides: Nude Photography around 1900’ at the Museum for Photography, Berlin

Exhibition dates: 3rd May – 25th August 2013

 

Many thankx to the Museum for Photography for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

*PLEASE NOTE THIS POSTING CONTAINS ART PHOTOGRAPHS OF MALE AND FEMALE NUDITY – IF YOU DO NOT LIKE PLEASE DO NOT LOOK, FAIR WARNING HAS BEEN GIVEN*

 

 

Léon Gimpel. 'The Sculptor' 1911

 

Léon Gimpel (French, 1873-1948)
The Sculptor
1911
Autochrome
© Société française de photographie, Paris

 

Photographer unknown. 'Act of Headstand' Before 1905

 

Photographer unknown
Act of Headstand
Before 1905
Silver gelatin print
© Universität der Künste Berlin, Universitätsarchiv

 

Photographer unknown. 'The 250-pound ranks of the 1st Caulking men's club, Munich' 1907

 

Photographer unknown
The 250-pound ranks of the 1st Caulking men’s club, Munich
1907
From: Athletics Sports Illustrated Newspaper, 01/19/1907
© Niedersächsisches Institut für Sport-geschichte, Hannover

 

Otto Skowranek. 'Olga Desmond - Sword Dance' 1908

 

Otto Skowranek
Olga Desmond – Sword Dance
1908
Gelatin silver print
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kunst-bibliothek

 

Frank Eugene Smith. 'Adam and Eve' 1898/99

 

Frank Eugene (American, 1865-1936)
Adam and Eve
1898-99
Published in Camera Work, 1910
Heliogravure
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kunst-bibliothek

 

 

At the dawn of the last century, photographs of nudes could be found everywhere. The exhibition The Naked Truth and More Besides presents the astonishing diversity of photographic depictions of the disrobed human body that existed around this time. It was an age in which the foundations were laid for the development in the public domain of an extremely varied type of image, which, more than any other continues to inform the world in which we live today.

Most striking of all, the photographic nude appeared as a reproducible medium – on postcards, cigarette cards, posters, in magazines and in advertising, as inspiration for artists and an incentive for sportsmen, as instructional material, and as collector’s items. From the vast array of material, it is possible to identify several distinct groups that fall under such headings as: the mass produced, visual pleasures (arcadias, eroticism, and pornography), the body in the eye of science (ethnography, motion study photography, medicine), the cult of the body (reform movements – especially in German-speaking countries – naturism, and staged nudes from the world of sport and variety shows), and, of course, the nude in the artistic context (art academies and the Pictorialist tradition of fine-art prints). The most important characteristic of the image of naked people during this time is the inseparability of nude photographic production and reproduction. The trade or exchange in nude photographs was widespread across the whole of Europe. This is reflected in the exhibition, which not only features many treasures and rare finds from the Kunstbibliothek’s own Collection of Photography, but also includes important loans from several European institutions, ranging from the Bibliothèque nationale de France to the Police Museum of Lower Saxony.

 

The exhibition

A Commodity Market – The Machinery of the Nude

Since the invention of photography, the unclothed human body has been positioned – sitting, standing and reclining – in front of the camera. Large numbers of nude images, avidly pursued by censors, were in circulation as of the middle of the 19th century. By around 1900 nude photography had broken into the public sphere. Starting in 1880, photographs had become easier to produce and reproduce. They began to flood the market in various printed forms: alongside stereoviews, cartes de visite and single prints, nudes could now be found on postcards, trading cards, autograph cards, posters and in magazines, books and films. Nude photographs were promoted, ordered, sold and sent. They were published for a large audience under the guise of artistic or academic activity, and people’s viewing habits, their gaze on the naked body – their own or someone else’s – began to change. In this process it became clear that photography played a significant role in the marketing of the naked body, but also in people’s self-understanding. Today’s arbitrary use of scantily-clad models to advertise goods is but one phenomenon that continues what was emerging with the visual material of the turn of the 20th century.

 

“For Artistic Purposes Only” – Model Studies and Photographic Academies

Nude pictures were reaching the public as “photographs after nature.” In the process, the artistic content or the intended use of the photographs was always emphasised. If we were to judge by the quantity of materials said to be produced solely for artists, then the largest professional group around 1900 would have been composed of them. “For artistic purposes only” was the password to uncensored production of nude photography. For many artists, photographic depictions actually did replace calling in live models. Art academies created a reference collection with nude studies. In many cases, works of painting or sculpture can be directly traced back to a particular photograph. Taken in classrooms that tended toward sobriety, most of the poses were borrowed from the art-historical cannon. Countless Venus and Apollo figures, cherubs, Atlases, Horatii, Graces and boys in the classical style populate the portfolios of the period. A practice of child nudes developed in the slipstream of the photographic academies. Ostensibly, these were created to show the angelic innocence of children of all ages. Photographers also documented classes in studios and at academies. Thus we see photographs of entire student groups with their nude model, and there are also fine examples of the triad of artist, model and work.

 

(Visual) Yearnings – Ideals from Arcadia

The unclothed body was first and foremost an object of erotic associations, and they were rendered by photography in more or less subtle ways. While a large audience enjoyed the Arcadian idylls of Sicily without coming into a conflict with the law, there was likely an even larger public buying the goods “under the table” or only “per order,” potentially becoming guilty of immorality. Under Wilhelm II, male friendships were cherished as pillars of the system. Homosexuality, by contrast, was the subject of heated debate, its reception mixed. With this in mind, the vast array of potentially homoerotic photographs that were produced is revealing.

Wilhelm von Gloeden counts among the best-known practitioners of a kind of nude photography that gave voice to longings for an idyll that was generally Mediterranean or classical in nature. His photographs enjoyed tremendous commercial success around 1900. Numerous fellow photographers, most of them anonymous, began to photograph young and old satyrs, Ephebes, Apollos and shepherd boys and girls, staging the journey to Arcadia for the camera. Their images were published in such places as the first homoerotic magazine Der Eigene alongside poems, prose and essays. At the same time, these nude photographs were added to ethnographic collections (for example as Sicilian folklore), were discussed in the medical context and were used by (body) reformers to communicate an ideal.

 

Vividly Immoral – Censored and Pornographic Photography

Since the invention of photography, photographs have been produced that are erotic or pornographic in nature. Crude or more sophisticated fashions, fantasies, means of distribution and censorship changed depending on the period. Around 1900, censorship in Germany generally went hand in hand with the so-called Lex Heinze, a newly added paragraph that forbade public exhibition of material classified as immoral. When enforced, the censorship effort resulted in the impounding by police of thousands of images from individual distribution businesses and studios. But in the face of the new, ever-growing production of nude photographs, the aim of gaining the upper hand over the flood of images was destined to fail.

Material from private collections is rare today but it would have been found in a large number of ordinary households. Aficionados put together albums in which they showed their predilections using a combination of photographs, drawings or caricatures, and sometimes writing. Even the police kept an exemplary inventory of nude photography which they collected in albums. In Germany there remains only the album from the Police Museum of Lower Saxony, whose large format, elaborately stamped leather binding, and careful arrangement of the diverse material make it clear just how significant nude photography was to the guardians of the law, too.

 

“The photographic plate is the retina of scholars” – The Nude Body in Science

A great number of scientific fields made use of photography in their systematic mapping out of the visible world. The naked body was measured, compared and assessed. Norms were defined and aberrations shown. The new, photographically mediated consciousness of physical constitutions made itself felt in the way people saw themselves and their contemporaries. But the seeming objectivity of the medium also abetted discriminatory views. The photography of movement played a particular role in the photographic experiments that sought to describe and unravel the human body in all its aspects. Special devices were used to record the consecutive positions of motor activities. In addition to movement in everyday life and in sports, photographers also documented freely invented movement and movement resulting from disease. Eadweard Muybridge and Ottomar Anschütz together with Albert Londe count among the best-known representatives of the photographic anatomy study and the systematic recording of movement.

Using special equipment, photographers provided physicians with illustrations of diseases and physical ailments. Image material was gathered on a regular basis and used in medical research and teaching. The often highly suggestive visual language of the time is also reflected in scientific publications. Many of the diagnostic findings and display formats from around 1900 seem outdated today.

When photography became more compatible with travelling, ethnographers brought back to Europe a large number of photographs of the sometimes unclothed inhabitants of colonies they were visiting and exploring. And as the ethnographic nude became more pervasive, posing for the camera became more common. Postures and props were modelled on recognised artworks as well as ideas about foreign cultures that were prevalent in Europe. Photographic comparisons were designed to emphasise particular characteristics of ethnic groups or body types: here, technical tricks, such as using different lighting, backgrounds and poses, came into play. This kind of image material fuelled chauvinist and racist delusions, which became widely published.

 

“Naked People – a Cheerful Future” – Nude Photography and the Cult of the Body around 1900

At the turn of the century, questions about the body were quickly gaining in importance. Were corsets desirable? The photographs of corset marks on naked female bodies argue against them. What good was exercise? Photographs of trained naked bodies documented the benefits. What did a normal person look like, and what did the ideal body look like? With nude photography printed in numerous magazines and books, people began to develop an eye for these matters. With more and more images becoming available, people became more discerning when it came to their body versus foreign bodies. The body could be compared and evaluated. Ideals spread through powerful imagery and gained an increasing influence on individual body culture.

During the reform movement people, especially those in the German Empire, were drawn to the open air. They enjoyed so-called light baths, whose benefits were discussed at length and proven with photographs. An emerging nudism used photography to demonstrate a deliberately relaxed association with one another. Scantily clad or unclothed, stars soon had their pictures taken onstage, becoming famous when their images were used in advertising and turned into items of mass distribution. Their postcards and cartes de visite were precursors of the pin-up. Several of these images bring to mind hippies of the 1960s and ‘70s. Yet, among the nudists of the turn of the century were also publishers such as Richard Ungewitter, whose racist theories, based in folk identity, lent decidedly ideological undertones to the nude images they used in their argumentation.

 

Passions of Art Photography – Pictorialist Nudes

Beginning in the 1890s many photographers sought to elevate their craft to the status of art with the aid of particular printing techniques and strategies of image creation. Nude photography, certainly a pleasurable pastime for such ambitious art photographers as the so-called Pictorialists, produced a wide variety of motifs. In the prestigious magazine Camera Work, Alfred Stieglitz published a vast number of such images, including works by Robert Demachy, Constant Puyo, Heinrich Kühn, Annie Brigman and Edward Steichen. Among the Pictorialist nudes are expressive mise-en-scenes, some of them self-portraits of the photographers, whose subject matter was by turns poetic and symbolic. Besides this work, there certainly are images that are conventionally pleasant or academic and that stand out from the common material mostly due to their high print quality. Their pictorial techniques serve an atmosphere of everything from playful coquetry to dramatic religiousness. As the clearly preferred pose of wrestlers was that of a poet or thinker, Auguste Rodin’s sculpture The Thinker can be seen as bringing together the aesthetics of sculpture, Pictorialism and athlete photography.

Press release from the Museum of Photography website

 

Emile Bayard. 'The Aesthetic Nude No. 34' 1903

 

Emile Bayard (French, 1837-1891)
Untitled
From The Aesthetic Nude No. 34
1903

 

Emile Bayard. 'The Aesthetic Nude No. 34' 1903

 

Emile Bayard (French, 1837-1891)
Untitled
From The Aesthetic Nude No. 34
1903

 

 

How many artfully-draped centaurs, bacchantes, and nymphs does it take to make a dirty magazine? Only one early 20th-century periodical has the answer: The Aesthetic Nude (Le Nu Esthétique)… Illustrated entirely with unclothed models enacting quasi-mythological imagery, the covers alone range from a rapturous Leda and the Swan to a centaur’s semi-consensual abduction of a nymph (above). Inside each issue appear even more views of studio models in increasingly far-fetched poses, all of which were ostensibly meant to supplant the live model in studio practice. It’s not clear that anyone ever copied these compositions in paint, but the effort that went into cutting out the photos in lively shapes, and the publication’s run of several years (c. 1902-06), suggests a market existed for it!

These ‘aesthetic nudes’ beg the question of what constituted nudity, as opposed to nakedness in the late 19th and early 20th century. Was it simply the academic and mythological guise that made these images acceptable, even collectible?

Text from the ARTicle, Art Institute of Chicago blog [Online] Cited 08/08/2013

 

Photographer unknown. 'Two women on a carousel Pig' c. 1900

 

Photographer unknown
Two women on a carousel Pig
c. 1900
Silver gelatin print
© Collection GERARD LEVY, Paris

 

Albert Londe. '15 Chronophotographs of Charcot's son / Charcot plays football' c. 1890

 

Albert Londe (French, 1858-1917)
15 Chronophotographs of Charcot’s son / Charcot plays football
c. 1890
Gelatin silver print
© École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts, Paris; Reprofoto: Jean-Michel Lapelerie

 

Photographer unknown. 'Postcard with Aktmotiv, stamped and postmarked' 1906

 

Photographer unknown
Postcard with Aktmotiv, stamped and postmarked
1906
Lichtdruck
© Sammlung Robert Lebeck, Berlin

 

Photographer unknown (Max Lorenz Nielsen?). 'Male Nude in Tree' c. 1900

 

Photographer unknown (Max Lorenz Nielsen?)
Male Nude in Tree
c. 1900
Gelatin silver print
© Berlinische Galerie

 

Rudolf Lehnert and Ernst Landrock. 'Transparency' 1904

 

Rudolf Lehnert (Austro-Hungarian, 1878-1948) and Ernst Landrock (German, 1878-1966)
Transparency
1904
Salter paper print
© Münchner Stadtmuseum

 

Heinrich Kühn. 'Female Nude' c. 1906

 

Heinrich Kühn (Austrian-German, 1866-1944)
Female Nude
c. 1906
Bromoil print
© Estate of the Artist / Galerie Kicken Berlin

 

 

Museum of Photography
Jebensstraße 2, 10623 Berlin, Germany
Phone: +49 30 266424242

Opening hours:
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Museum of Photography website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

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