Archive

Tag Archives: Wikimedia Commons

In 1870 the English painter John Everett Millais, the future 1st Baronet and President of the Royal Academy, presented a large painting ‘with the almost life size figures‘ at the Royal Academy. The painting The Knight Errant shows a medieval knight ‘freeing a woman who has been stripped and tied to a tree’.

The Knight Errant (1870) by John Everett Millais

The Knight Errant (1870) by John Everett Millais

The tree, a Silver Birch, was commonly identified with the female gender in the nineteenth century and was sometimes referred to as ‘Lady Birch’. Birch twigs were also traditionally used in flagellation. The woman’s clothes lie on the ground to the left and her molesters, assumed to be robbers by one critic, are seen fleeing the scene in the top right corner of the canvas. There is blood on the Knight’s sword and the torso of a dead man is visible behind him. (Rebecca Virag at Tate Collection)

But this painting with such a naive classical content stirred up feelings of dissatisfaction among the public and critics. The artist’s naturalistic approach was recognized as unacceptable. The critics thought the woman was ‘too life-like’, especially in comparison ‘with the continental practice of idealising the nude’. In June 1870, the Art Journal claimed that ‘the manner is almost too real for the treatment of the nude‘.

Sharp criticism made Millais ‘cut out the head and chest of the female figure from his canvas and re-work these parts to show the woman turning modestly away‘. Through X-ray examination of the picture, it is seen that woman’s ‘head and torso were originally turned towards the Knight, establishing eye contact’. The painter didn’t painted nude female figures anymore in his career.

It is remarkable that the original section with woman’s head may be seen on another Millais’ canvas called The Martyr of The Solway.

The Martyr of the Solway (c.1871) by John Everett Millais

The Martyr of the Solway (c.1871) by John Everett Millais

Using these two pictures Martin Beek made the wonderful probable reconstruction of the initial painting.

Knight Errant 1870 by Millais and the Victorian Nude by Martin Beek | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Knight Errant 1870 by Millais and the Victorian Nude by Martin Beek | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Links
1. Tate Collection | The Knight Errant by Sir John Everett Millais, Bt
2. Tate Collection | Sir John Everett Millais, Bt
3. File:The Knight Errant 1870.jpg – Wikimedia Commons
4. File:John Everett Millais – The Martyr of the Solway.jpg – Wikimedia Commons
5. John Everett Millais – Wikimedia Commons
6. John Everett Millais – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
7. Knight Errant 1870 by Millais and the Victorian Nude. Millais and Manet. | Flickr – Photo Sharing!

Olga Desmond (1891 – 1964) was a German dancer and actress. She earned popularity due to her participation in “living pictures” in which she introduced the concept of total nudity and posed after the manner of ancient classical works of art. The shows called “Evenings of Beauty” (Schönheitsabende) were organized by the Association for Ideal Culture and prohibited on more than one occasion starting from 1908.

Olga Desmond became one of the first to promote nudity on the stage in St. Petersburg, Russia in the summer of 1908. In 1910 she produced a luxurious folio that featured narratively sequenced nude photos of her as she assumed statuesque, classic Greek poses of heroic character. She even treated her hair to give it a sculpted look.

For Desmond, nothing was more significant than nudity in calling attention to the problem of seeing the movement of the body itself. She was quoted to say,

I decided to break the centuries-old heavy chains, created by people themselves. When I go out on stage completely naked, I am not ashamed, I am not embarrassed, because I come out before the public just as I am, loving all that is beautiful and graceful. There was never a case when my appearance before the public evoked any cynical observations or dirty ideas.

Olga Desmond had a close connection to the nudist movement and was for a while the wife of the editor of the nudist magazine Die Schönheit.

The two images below are taken from Wikimedia Commons.

Olga Desmond posing nude in one of her "Evenings of Beauty"

Olga Desmond posing nude in one of her "Evenings of Beauty"

Olga Desmond

Olga Desmond

Links
1. Weimar and Now: German Cultural Criticism by Karl Toepfer
2. Olga Desmond – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
3. Olga Desmond: Facts, Discussion Forum, and Encyclopedia Article
4. Ann van Poperingen’s Blog » » Olga Desmond

Wikimedia Commons describes Jean Agélou (1878-1921) briefly as a photographer who “produced nude and risque photographs from 1900 until about 1917. Jean Agélou published most of his nudes under the initials JA. His most famous model was a woman known as “Fernande”.” It is notable that the first illustration in the article on Erotica in Wikipedia is one of the Jean Agélou’s Fernandes. “Miss Fernande” is considered as a kind of erotic icon celebrated in Europe in the first decades of the 20th century. Here is one quote from the website devoted to her:

Little is known about the lovely Fernande, not even her last name (the postcards only indicate “Miss Fernande”). Though she is largely forgotten today, her photographs are still collected worldwide by an ardent following.

It is believed that she was born about 1892 in Paris, France. She was a beautiful model for Jean Agelou in the 1910’s and apparently into the 1920’s. She lived downtown Paris in a hotel just two doors away from Jean Agelou’s studio. There exist different versions and ideas about her real name and origin. Nothing is known for sure. Somebody calls Miss Fernande the First Lady of Erotica. Her beauty survived in that French postcards. But what if she didn’t dare to participate in risqué modeling jobs?

Miss Fernande (1910-1917) by Jean Agélou (1878-1921)

Miss Fernande by Jean Agélou (1910-1917)

JA Serie 39 by Jean Agélou

JA Serie 39 by Jean Agélou

Miss Fernande by Jean Agélou (1910-1917)

Miss Fernande by Jean Agélou (1910-1917)

Links
1. Jean Agélou – Wikimedia Commons
2. French Posctards MISS FERNANDE, JEAN AGELOU, JA STUDIOS Erotic Postcards
3. Miss Fernande
4. Erotica – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Recently I’ve discovered a volume devoted to exploring the development and experience of life in East Germany. Katherine Pence and Paul Betts, Editors of the volume entitled East German everyday culture and politics (University of Michigan Press, 2008), write in the Introduction that

The reunification of Germany in 1989 may have put an end to the experiment in East German communism, but its historical assessment is far from over.

East German everyday culture and politics

East German everyday culture and politics

They indicate that most of the literature over the past two decades has been driven by the desire to uncover the relationship between power and resistance, but now the study of the everyday history of East German citizens advances to the forefront.

One of the articles in the book is written by Dagmar Herzog and entitled ‘East Germany’s Sexual Revolution’ (p. 71). The issue of FKK (Freikörperkultur), an important part of GDR culture, is touched upon as well. I’d like to give a few quotes from the article that may shed some light on the place nudism occupied in the life of East German people.

Starting in the middle of the 1960s nude bathing became acceptable for growing numbers of GDR citizens, and by the 1970s full nudity was clearly the norm at GDR beaches, lakeside or oceanside. Early attempts by municipal authorities to prevent this practice were simply overridden by the adamant masses, who stripped and would not move.

I found out a wonderful formulation dating back to 1956 (?): “… Nudism is a threat to public safety and it harms our workers. It is a life style of intellectuals and artists, not of workers.”

Bundesarchiv Bild 183-1989-0708-021, Berlin, Strandfest am Müggelsee

Berlin, Strandfest am Müggelsee

Nakedness for the whole family also within the home became increasingly standard practice as well, especially for that generation that had grown up together with the GDR…

The researcher writes that from the point of view of West Germans, the East German habit of naked display at the beach was variously interpreted as quaint and odd, as a trifle disturbing, or as (misplaced) compensation for East Germans’ lack of political independence.

After the reunification of Germany, the West Germans achieved what the GDR police had failed to do decades earlier.

The flood of Western pornography effectively demolished the Eastern culture of nakedness. … Many East German women no longer felt safe going naked now that they were viewed with Western men’s “pornographically schooled gaze” (pornographisch geschulter Blick). And they did begin to cover themselves.

I’ve chosen only a few quotes from the article and hope that this citation will not deprive the whole article of interest. The article is informative and allows to see the issue from the wider perspective.

In my previous post I’ve already mentioned the image donation from the German photography archives Deutsche Fotothek to Wikimedia Commons. The East German photography is less known than western, but the works of real masters are worth to be discovered.

Recently, I’ve found out for myself the photographic art of Roger and Renate Rössing. According to Wikipedia, Roger Rössing (1929-2006) was one of the most famous photographers in eastern Germany. Renate (1929-2005) met Roger Rössing at the photographic classes of School of Visual Arts in Leipzig they attended between 1948 and 1951. Together they have published about 90 picture books.

Renate und Roger Rössing mit einem Freund während einer Filmszene

Renate und Roger Rössing mit einem Freund während einer Filmszene

In 1952 they took a series of photographs devoted to Nacktkultur which drew my attention by their old fashioned and conservative style. It was the time when naturism began expanding in East Germany. But only since the 1970s the nude bathing in lakes and the Baltic Sea became widespread.

Badende

Badende

One can discover the photographs taken by Roger and Renate Rössing here.

Even if everybody knows something, maybe there is still someone who does not. I’ve discovered the photos from German archives at Wikimedia Commons accidentally, few months ago. Since I am interested in photography I would like to have the links to this remarkable photo collection in my blog and maybe someone will find this information useful.

Starting from December 4, 2008, Wikimedia Commons, media file repository of the Wikimedia Foundation, received more than 100,000 images as a donation from the German Federal Archives. All images may be found in Category:Images from the German Federal Archive or its subcategories. This donation was widely discussed in the blogosphere. The cooperation between Wikimedia and the German archives is developing. On April 2nd, 2009 the Deutsche Fotothek began to upload to Wikimedia Commons about the 250,000 images being part of the German Photo Collection at Saxony’s State and University Library.

These photos depict scenes from German history (including East Germany) and daily life. The pictures showing everyday life of the people in 1920s, 50s or 70’s leave me with a kind of nostalgia.

JO JO - das Spiel der zwanziger Jahre auf den Strassen Berlins

The Yo-Yo game of the 1920s, Charlottenstrasse, Berlin

Some images relate to the traditions of German naturism. The first nudist society was founded in Berlin in 1906. It is remarkable that while the FKK movement faded in the western states, it flourished in the communist east. Naturist bathing resorts established all along the Baltic coast and at the inland lakes were frequented by East German holidaymakers.

FKK-Anhänger am Berliner Müggelsee

FKK-Anhänger am Berliner Müggelsee