nude visions 150 years of body images in photography
may 25, 2009
nude visions 150 years of body images in photography


marilyn monroe in the series ‘the last sitting’, 1962 by bert stern
image © bert stern

nude visions
150 years of body images in photography
stadtmuseum munich – photography collection
27 may – 13 september 2009

the show spotlights the genre of nude photography. the munich city museum is
for the first time presenting 220 original pictures on this theme from its
photography collection, spanning the years from 1845 to 2005.
in the course of six chapters, a multifaceted cultural history of nude photography
is recounted. masters from the respective periods are brought together here –
starting with photographs from the early 19th century inspired by sculpted
and painted images which in turn drew on antique and renaissance models of
the idealized human body. this period is followed by the symbolist art of the
fin de siècle, in which the nude becomes a mirror of psychic moods and longings.
naturist images come next, segueing into the heroic physical ideal of national socialism,
the dream of the femme fatale, or the orient as motif for displaying nakedness.
finally, we are treated to the abstract and surrealist experiments of the 20th century,
accompanied by diverse scenarios in which the undressed body is shown in fashion
and lifestyle photography. the male nude is also explored, as an expression of
homoerotic emancipation in imagery.


kristen mcmenamy, 1996 by juergen teller
image © juergen teller
courtesy of the stadtmuseum, munich

the show starts with so-called “academies, plates used as models by artists like
delacroix and courbet. yet, at the same time photographers already made pictures
of the nude that had artistic ambitions. beginning in the 1870s,
nude models were placed outside of the studio in the open air, typically in the
mediterranean country-side of italy or north africa. using photography as tool,
the late 19th-century “lebens reform-bewegung” (life reform movement)
in germany celebrated the naked body’s naturalness. around 1900,
pictorialist photographers aimed at elevating the nude to an artistic subject.


hommage à helmut newton, 1985 by hermann stamm
image © hermann stamm
courtesy of the stadtmuseum, munich

in the realm of the nude, artistic photography of the 1920s and 1930s found new
compositional solutions by employing multiple exposures, solarization,
collage techniques and extreme chiaroscuro contrasts and perspectives.
the image of the naked body was thus distorted, dematerialized, x-rayed
and fragmented. such experiments continued after world war II,
yet a parallel development existed in straight photography, with its clear
and natural depictions of the
nude. body art and performance artists of the 1970s
declared the
immediacy of their own physical experiences as a political imperative.

the flood of pictures and easy access to the private and intimate,

defines nude photography of the 1990s. the exhibition’s section on
glamour photography
starts with works from the early 20th century, when
new ideals of stardom
were developed in the hollywood studios. during
the 1960s the glamorous nude
becomes fully established in advertising
photography. in contrast to the female nude,
the male nude is not as
established in the collective mind. during the 19th century,
the male
nude was legitimized as a model in art academies, and since the early

20th century in the context of bodybuilding. the pictorialists around
1900 had men
pose for pictures with mythological associations. the
homosexual emancipation that
occurred during the weimar republic and
continued in the 1960s,
witnessed a growing number of gay artists who
published an ever increasing range
of male nudes.


angelique at the salambo, st. puali / hamburg, 1976 by andré gelpke
image © andré gelpke
courtesy of the stadtmuseum, munich


arab with flowers, nude, 1935 by herbert list
image © herbert list bequest hamburg
courtesy of the stadtmuseum, munich


free dancing couple, about 1930 by gerhard riebicke
image © bodo niemann
courtesy of the stadtmuseum


catalogue ‘nude visions’ ISBN 978-3-86828-060-9
publisher: kehrer verlag
editor: münchner stadtmuseum sammlung fotografie)
authors: margarete gröner, rudolf scheutle, ulrich pohlmann
german/english, available soon

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