In the field of sculpture, the Berliner Georg Kolbe (1877–1947) predominated in the representation of dance. A proponent of nudism and gymnastic culture, he depicted nearly all of his dancers in nude poses beginning around 1912. His style was a sort of heroic, athletic expressionism emphasizing the supple, rounded rhythms of the muscles, the pliant mass of the dancing body. Dance movement suffused the body with curvatures of exquisite smoothness and obedience to internal rhythms. Kolbe's unambiguously healthy image of dance appealed to a large public and private audience, yet he was clearly a modernist in his search for an unusual, dramatic curve to the body's thrust toward freedom. One of his nude dancers stood before the Mies van der Rohe pavilion at the international modern art exposition at Barcelona in 1929. In both his sculpture and his graphic work, Kolbe tended to see dance rather than the dancer, so his image of the kinetic body made few concessions to the expressive realities of particular bodies. But the Nazis also found his image of the dancing body congenial to their cultural program. His 1925 statue of the beautiful Edith von Schrenck displayed the same heroic idealism as his more generic works, even though the aesthetic of this tragic dancer, loaded with the image of bondage and cramped flesh, completely contradicted his hygienic, emancipated view of dance.
Another Berliner, Oswald Herzog (1881–?), cultivated a much more abstract curvilinearity in his representation of dance. In 1914 he produced Ecstasy , a sculpture of a dancing maenad in which the nude figure of the dancer, attached to the base only by the toes of one foot, seemed to shoot into space with shocking exuberance. In subsequent sculptures of the war years, Herzog intensified his abstraction of the dancing body's curvatures so that stone moved with an organic freedom and bodies looked like strange, strong plants, shaped by the rhythms of wind, water, and molecular plasticity. In Plastik—Sinfonie des Lebens (1921), he asserted that "rhythmic dynamism is the law of world order" and that "dynamism is the source of all bodiliness [Körperlichkeit]" (12); moreover, "the abstraction of eroticism comes through the fusion of forms" (7). This attitude led to an image of the dancing body—seen, for example, in Geniessen (1920)—as "absolute" in its curvilinearity as the De Stijl artists were in their rectilinearity (cf., Kuhn, Der Cicerone , 8/9, April 1921, 245–252). Yet another Berlin sculptor, Rudolf Belling (1886–1972), achieved more powerful expression of organic curvilinearity, but dance was not his preferred subject. In 1923, however, he married a dancer, Toni Freeden, who apparently specialized in experimental, mechanical ballets. Belling's 1925 polished steel sculpture of her head was remarkable in bestowing a dancelike flow of metallic movement through the masklike, robotic face, the domed skull, and the wave of her hair. A
curious photograph shows the dancer cradling this image of herself with possessive affection (Nerdinger 194–195; 204–205) (Figure 76).
In Vienna, Lotte Pritzel created decorative wax dolls of incredible rococo refinement. These became popular during the First World War and remained so throughout Europe and America in the Weimar era. The figures were always thin, lithe, undulating with movement, and luxuriously costumed and ornamented, with haunting, ethereal, worldly facial expressions that somewhat contradicted the innocence usually associated with dolls. She constructed numerous dance dolls, a few of which were even "supposed to be accompanied by music and song, and dance entirely in circular movement" (Arts and Decoration , 24 December 1925, 45). Most peculiar, though, was the effort of four such contrasting dancers as Anita Berber, Niddy Impekoven, Grit Hegesa, and Herta Hornbach (a grotesque "fashion" dancer in Berlin) to include "Pritzel-doll" dances on their programs in 1919.
The market for decorative figurines of dancers expanded enormously in the 1920s with the evolution of carving, foundry, and glazing technologies that permitted the manufacture of extremely refined representations of the human body. A large number of artists in Germany, France, and Austria specialized in the production of these objects. The great majority of the figures had bodies formed out of ivory and bronze, which the artist cold-painted, tinted, or gilded and then set on an onyx or marble base. But some pieces featured bodies of painted porcelain or tinted glass. Female dancers predominated overwhelmingly. Many bodies were nude, but the majority wore glamorously exotic costumes or sleekly elegant contemporary fashions. The figures idealized (and sometimes satirized) dance as a luxurious, exquisite expression of the body's seductive plasticity, vitality, and vulnerability. They represented bodily movement with a breathtaking realism and refinement that was exuberantly modern yet the very antithesis of the abstraction associated with expressionism and other "isms." As Arwas has remarked, "they seemed about to come alive" in an "unnervingly" fanciful way (6). The variety of movements, poses, costumes and color effects depicted was astonishing and indicated a constant, even "addictive," appetite for discovering ever more decorative rhythms for the body.
In Paris, the Rumanian Dimitri Chiparus (1888–1950) was perhaps the most prolific producer of figurines; his dancers wore glamorously ornamental costumes of an oriental or antique type. But in Berlin, Ferdinand Preiss (1882–1943) was perhaps the greatest of all the figurine makers. During the 1920s his firm enjoyed a large global market, with England being an especially strong importer of the highly distinctive Preiss-Kassler product. "Preiss figures are the epitome of grace and elegance, the faces pretty but with character, the costumes colorful but restrained" (Arwas 244). Before the war Preiss tended to put his figures in the garb of classical antiquity, but
after 1920, when he intensified the realism of the representation, he dressed them in suavely tasteful contemporary fashions and cultivated a maddeningly exquisite athletic eroticism in which the sleek bodies looked both wholesome and impossibly refined (Arwas 161–207; Catley 256–283). He apparently relied for his models not on dancers themselves but on pictures from books, magazines, and newspapers. In Munich, however, dancer Lo Hesse modeled for Walter Schnackenberg and Constantine Holzer-Defanti (Arwas 110–111; 213–215). Much more perversely erotic dance figurines came from Dorothea Charol (1895–?) in Berlin and Bruno Zach in Vienna. Zach cultivated a glossy image of the proud, haughty, high-heeled dominatrix or Amazon in shiny black latex or with a riding crop. In these curious works one observes in the dance pose the perfect, sadomasochistic image of the modern, emancipated female as a new species of aristocrat, the born ruler of strange, dark desires (223–231; Catley 303–307).