Lotte Herrlich (1883–1956) seems to have inherited the prewar perception of Nacktkultur associated with the north German artist colony of Worpswede and with the neoromantic paintings of communal nudity in nature produced by Worpswede artist Heinrich Vogeler (1872–1942), who subscribed to an unorthodox, mystical vision of communism. Though photography was Herrlich's medium, her pictorialist imagery retained perceptions of nude bodies that Vogeler achieved through painting. Photography, how-
ever, verified what painting only imagined. Herrlich's interest in nude photography emerged after the birth of her son, Rolf, and all of her publications of the 1920s, beginning with the three-volume Edle Nacktheit (1920–1921) and continuing with Neue Aktstudien (1923), In Licht und Sonne (1924), Seliges Nacktsein (2 vols., 1927), Der Kinderakt und Anderes (1928), and Das Weib (1928), presented nudism as a familial activity—she constructed images of nudity permeated by an aesthetic of domesticity. She detached the image of nudity from images of labor, exercise, physical dexterity, athletics, or tests of strength. The nude body did not need sports, gymnastics, or dance to justify its manifestation. Very simple actions performed by nude bodies fascinated her: walking through woods, bending over streams, reading a book, leaning against a doorway, kneeling before a sandpile. She suffused the image of nudity with a gentleness and tranquility that was in tension with the vitality, power, and sublimated erotic excitement that other Nacktkultur propagandists ascribed to the naked body. For Herrlich, nudity was a restful, pleasurable, and—especially in relation to children and youths—playful phenomenon (Figure 12). Moreover, although nature was the scene for most of her pictures, she did include images of nude bodies (mostly women) reposing (rather than posing) comfortably in conventional bourgeois interiors.
Recent commentary tends to see in Herrlich's work a "naive," antimodern impulse because her images lack anticipated signs of modernism (Schmidt-Linsenhoff 49–51; Köhler 342–349). Yet the apparent passivity idealized in her imagery does exert an enduring command over perception. The gentle strategy Herrlich employed did not divide perception between body and movement or establish the value of each through the other—it focused perception entirely on nudity as the source of aesthetic experience. The dominant activity performed by the nude body in Herrlich's imagery was letting others see it as nakedly as possible, something we do not really see when other activities performed by the body (sex, athletics, exercises, dance) command our attention simultaneously. This attitude toward nudity was actually much more modern than we might suppose if we do not see in the image the obvious signs of modernism we expect with the disclosure of activities we consider modern. In her interior shots, Herrlich avoided altogether the secretive atmosphere of the studio, the pose, and the cosmetic artifice, with the result that the naked body appeared as an extension of nature into the timeless bourgeois home. The effect was rather startling: Herrich's photography implied that modern identity did not depend on surrounding oneself with modern objects or locating oneself within a modern scene; it depended on being comfortable (at rest) with one's nakedness before the modern spectator (the camera) and in even the most archaic and traditional settings (nature, the prewar bourgeois interior).
One of Herrlich's most interesting productions was Rolf: Ein Lied vom Werden in 30 Natur-Aufnahmen (1924). In this book, Herrlich selected thirty nude photographs she had taken of her son, Rolf, to document his evolution from boyhood to manhood. The preface, by Magnus Weidemann, claimed that "we nordic souls of light . . . are not just 'becoming,' but are 'Becoming' itself" (16). The idea that identity is more an expression of "becoming" (Werden ) than of being, he asserted, is a Nordic trait (15), and children "become more" not through the acquisition of wealth or social rank but through a "fine and noble humanity" achieved by naked living (17). Herrlich chronicled the "naked becoming" of her son, beginning with photos of Rolf as a small boy playing naked in idyllic natural settings or assuming exaggerated boyish poses in a studio. Plates 10 and 11 showed Rolf and another nude boy playing pipes and flutes. Subsequent images depicted Rolf as an adolescent and young man posing alone with a sword, a skull, a bow, a violin, a wreath, a staff, a shotput, and sometimes without props at all, in pensive or heroic poses. Plates 17 to 20 presented the adolescent Rolf with a nude woman in images that showed him writing, aiming a bow, dancing with her, and playing pipes with her. In the final image of the book, the nude Rolf advanced toward the camera in a heroic pose, with uplifted face. An aura of primeval, Teutonic mystery pervaded this female iconography of male beauty, yet the book was unmistakably modern, not only in its ambiguity and irony but also in its documentation of a woman's seeking to know the limits of her power to look at her own child.
In the 1930s Herrlich focused on photos of nude children for calendars, some of which reappeared on calendars of the 1950s. Her son became a gifted photographer himself in the late 1920s, and many of his images appeared in nudist journals published by Parthenon. But unlike his mother, Rolf displayed little enthusiasm for nude bodies in woods, meadows, and beaches. He liked the studio, creating complex, dramatic scenes with eerie and glamorous chiaroscura lighting designs. His nude models were always female. Photography was for him an art of capturing, dramatically, an abstract or emotional state. Many of his images bore allegorical titles: "Joy," "Devotion," "Melancholy," "Sleep," "Pain," "Dance," "Fear," "Vice," "Vision," "Shadow Love," "Pride" (Asa , No. 2, 1931; Das Paradies des Körpers , 1929); Sonnige Welt: Asa Sammelband No.4 , 1928). In "Ecstasy" (1931), he presented a blurred image of a nude woman on her knees arching backwards with her eyes closed. He used a very similar pose to represent "Despair" in 1928, yet the two images were not the same. The difference between ecstasy and despair lay not in the pose or body of the model but in the blurring of the image of "Ecstasy" by technical-chemical processes. In other words, the allegorized emotion lay in the act of seeing rather than in the thing seen. Other images were more blatantly theatrical or illustrative: "In the Harem," "The Cigarette," "Venetian Woman," "Dancing Bird," "Living Bronze," "Resting
Venus," and the stunning "Kimono" (Ibid.; Asa, No. 3, 1931). "Lucretia" (1931) plunged a dagger into her breast; in "Footlight" (1931), the model, kneeling, aimed a bow and arrow before an ominous, luxurious curtain. In "The Saint' (1931), she wore a black nun's gown but exposed her breasts. Apparently, then, for Rolf Herrlich the nude body provoked a wider and more contrasting range of emotions than for his mother, and the revelation of these emotions depended on images that did not neutralize the body within illusions of nature or naturalness.
Magnus Weidemann (1880–1967), the author of the preface to Rolf, developed an aesthetic similar to Lotte Herrlich's. Weidemann, a former pastor in a suburb of Hamburg, abandoned his religious vocation in 1919 for Nacktkultur, art, and participation in the youth movement. He worked with Herrlich, Hagemann, and Menzler; some of his images, appearing in Kunstgabe 4 (1921), Wege zur Freude (1926), and Deutsches Baden (1927), therefore stressed the vitality of the naked body to a greater extent than Lotte Herrlich's, although none of his images ever achieved the almost hypnotic serenity of hers. In 1925 he published probably his most interesting work, Körper und Tanz, which contained photographs of nude dancers. With these images he sought to free nude dancing from a "bourgeois atmosphere" of perfume, cigarettes, wine, money, and intoxication (11). The true nude dance, however, was "not a matter for just anyone. Anyone can learn social dances. But the rhythmic personal dance must come from an inner drive and therefore only from those who experience life. That is frequent in children. With them, the desire for life pulses in leaping and spinning, bending and stretching, and play becomes rhythm, then dance" (25). Many of Weidemann's images depicted solo female dancers, whose hair was always braided in a traditional volkisch style; he also presented pairs of nude female dancers in images with allegorical or impressionistic titles such as "Surrender" or "Seabreeze." He included no pictures of nude male dancers because man is "active in contrast to the passive-intuitive character of women. His entire bodily education points and strives toward 'das Werk'; the object is more with him than the subject" (25). Although this attitude could explain why it was so difficult to find nude male dancers in the Weimar Nacktkultur iconography, it left unexplained why dance was less of an expression of das Werk than popular imagery of nude men hurling javelins or playing tug-of-war.