Publications of the Verlag der Schönheit (Dresden), perhaps the largest of all Nacktkultur publishing houses, concentrated on linking nudism with a modern aestheticism, with an art of bodily display and expression. In Revolution und Nacktkultur (1919), Hugo Peters announced that in postwar Germany the nudist movement must move beyond the ambitions of the Wilhelmine era and pursue goals having more concrete national ramifications than did the goals guiding the pioneers of Nacktkultur . He conceded the difficulty of achieving the ultimate goal: a nation in which any well-behaved cit-
izen could appear naked anywhere, without reproach, a nation where it was possible for a man and a woman to stroll nude in the zoological gardens on a Sunday afternoon. In the short run, however, some goals seemed quite feasible. These included the expansion of public space available for nudist activity, an improvement in the quality of public space for nudism, the abolition of male and female sectors for unmarried nudists, the transformation of all nudist zones on public lands into "family zones," the formation of an effective network of influential individuals for the acquisition of private lands, and the promotion of Nacktkultur through performance media, especially nude dancing, for "painting, sculpture, and literature alone cannot quell the hunger for a beauty that belongs only to real, living human bodies" (9–39). Peters's largest goal, however, was to unite all nudist societies into a single, powerful force with the influence of a major political party, for "in a democratic time such as the present, the individual personality . . . in its uniqueness appears less frequent than earlier," and "only people in their collectivity" could achieve goals that would bring individual lives to a higher plane (10).
On this point, however, Peters's power of prophecy failed him. The idea of a great, unified nudist movement proved as much of an illusion as the idea of a great national consensus in mainstream Weimar politics. On the contrary, during the 1920s Nacktkultur became increasingly diverse, fragmenting into a vast subculture capable of absorbing ever stranger and more virulent forms of individuality. Josef Seitz's Die Nacktkulturbewegung (1923) therefore characterized nudism as an evolutionary (rather than revolutionary) movement toward a modern aesthetic identity, and he explained how different political parties, religious ideologies, and racial groups had responded to it and myths about it since the beginning of the century. With its many illustrations, this was perhaps the most popular book published by Die Schönheit. Die Schönheit also produced such compilation picture books as Ideale Nacktheit (9 vols., 1920–1928), Ideale Körper Schönheiten (1923), and Körper Schönheit im Lichtbild (1924), as well as Otto Goldmann's entertaining book on law and nudity in the arts, Nacktheit, Sitte und Gesetz (1924). But perhaps its most significant publication was the journal Die Schönheit , founded in 1903 by Karl Vanselow (1876–1959), the husband of Olga Desmond. From its beginning, Die Schönheit presented nudism as an extension of modernism in the visual and performing arts. In prewar issues of the journal, which Vanselow edited until 1914, symbolist and Jugendstil paintings of nude bodies, particularly the immensely popular illustrations of mythic primeval Nordic nudity by Fidus, appeared almost as models for dramatic poses assumed by nude bodies of both sexes in photographs. The journal pioneered in the publication of photographs that depicted men and women nude together, often enacting a scene that previously was merely imaginable through painting, such as The Judgment of Paris .
After the war, however, Die Schönheit 's editors placed much more confidence in photography's ability to establish its own themes. Images from film, theatre, and especially dance filled many of the journal's pages, along with photographs devised by artists quite conscious of modernist currents in that medium. Die Schönheit published photographs by Lotte Herrlich and Magnus Weidemann, but it consistently perceived the power of nude modern dance to intensify the aesthetic significance of nudism and the artistic exposure of the body. An entire issue (1926) was devoted to the group movement studies of Rudolf Laban, the only major dance theorist or dance writer of the 1920s to take any serious interest in nude male dance. Other issues celebrated the solo nude dances of Claire Bauroff or of the female members of the Loheland, Menzler, or Hagemann schools; however, these images, deprived of analytical commentary, revealed very little about what movements, music, or narrative contexts were appropriate for nude dancing and much about what constituted a "beautiful" image of woman. In the late 1920s, the journal introduced complex photocollages of nude bodies interacting with images from diverse times and places, but these hardly repudiated the impulse on which the journal was founded. From its beginning, Die Schönheit saw dance not as the object of nudism but as a metaphor for a movement of history, a motion of consciousness caused by a desire to see the body more nakedly, from a modern perspective. The body was ultimately naked when the desire to see it, a completely aesthetic phenomenon, was also naked. By the late 1920s, this intersection between the desire to be naked and the desire to see nudity entailed, for Die Schönheit , a collage mode of signification that superseded the power of any single image or narratively sequenced movement to represent the historically evolved power of nudity to make us see many things "at once," besides the nude body that is the kinetic source of collage perception.
The activities of Die Schönheit expanded significantly in the 1920s. It published numerous books on marriage, sexuality, eroticism, physical education, nudism, and art, including a huge series devoted entirely to the works of Fidus; it packaged slide-show lectures on Nacktkultur; it marketed its own lines of stationery and art supplies; it operated a large bookstore, printing plant, and mail-order business in Dresden controlled by Richard Giesecke; it maintained branch offices in Vienna, Berlin, Munich, and Leipzig; and in 1925, partly because of the great success of the film Wege zu Kraft und Schönheit (and partly because this film did not give an entirely satisfactory view of modern body culture), Die Schönheit began to finance motion picture productions with the Emelka Studio in Munich. In 1925, under the direction of Dr. Friedrich Möhl and with the advice of Dr. Paul Lissmann, leader of a Munich Nacktkultur society, Emelka released three films—Licht, Luft, Leben; Die Grazien—Blüten der Körperkultur und Frauenschönheit; and Insel der Seligen , an adaptation of Wilhelm Heinse's 1787 novel, Ardinghello , about
a Mediterranean beauty utopia—and then launched a series of "Körperkultur im Film" books.
However, Die Schönheit did not rely entirely on imagery to transmit the emancipatory message of Nacktkultur . The monthly journal Licht Luft Leben (1904–1932), edited by Otto Goldmann, contained few pictures and many, many words, in Gothic print, densely crammed into double-column pages. The journal featured essays on nudist theory, ethnography, anthropology, sexuality, race hygiene, birth control, bathing, gymnastics, sports, and cosmetology; reports on nudist activities throughout Germany and in other countries; reports (often satiric) of legal and moral challenges to nudism throughout the world; reviews of books, films, lectures, gymnastic demonstrations, dance concerts, and art exhibits; summaries of reports from other journals; advertisements for books, photography supplies and services, vitamins, hiking shoes, rare-edition erotica, spas, cosmetics, chocolates, art objects, dance and gymnastic schools, the Breitkopf und Härtel complete edition of Richard Wagner's works, and the nude dance photography of Germaine Krull; and heaps of personal advertisements: "Christmas Wish. Music-loving worshipper of beauty (female), 32, seeks exchange of thoughts with ideal-inclined friend of beauty (male). Write 'Beethoven,' 4189 Verlag der Schönheit." Licht Luft Leben still makes fascinating reading, not least because of its bibliographic data and commentary on the avalanche of German books on body culture produced in this period but also because of its highly compressed presentation of information, indicating the huge dimensions of the Nacktkultur movement, and its appropriative range of historical, philosophical, cultural, commercial, and aesthetic interests. The political identity of German modernism generally, not just nude dance, evolved out of the value constellation and cultural perspectives articulated by Die Schönheit and publishers similar to it rather than out of the party-driven utopianism defining more overtly political media, which tended to detach human identity from any serious focus on bodies.