“Female Beauty” by Alain-René Hardy

Album of the 1st International Exhibition of Nude Photography, Paris, 1933

NUS NUS NUS… If bigger typography were possible, it would definitely be used to label this album; however, it was not possible in this case, because these three letters NUS, arranged diagonally, occupy the entire surface of the cover. [Ill. 01] ; [Ill. 02], imperatively imposes itself. This great big NUS was also quite provocative in the France of the late Roaring Twenties, still cautious despite Joséphine Baker’s flashy exhibitions at the Champs-Elysées theater and reviews of the Folies Bergère or the Moulin Rouge. Mishingett. Wouldn’t it be a little more today?

Everything was done to attract attention with this great title, especially to me, an antiquarian at the Vanves flea market, and finally to encourage me to open and browse this fascinating collection. It was love at first sight: in this album, born fifty years ago, everything was great: starting with the photos that were simply beautiful – like bodies, a remarkable presence highlighted by flawless marks, including as a neophyte. I could judge; Some have unmistakably freed themselves from the imitation of pictorial representation, others have become more inventive in their explorations of framing, light, contrast, and some even downright avant-garde, if only by using innovative technical processes such as overprinting. [Ill. 03]sunbathing [Ill. 04]or intentional blurring [Ill. 05]…

Taken mainly in the studio, but also a third outdoors, the photographs, repeated in no particular order, are discreetly colored on a full sheet on high-quality strong paper, printed by a technical process, heliogravure. which will be familiar later, gently handling strong contrasts between intense and deep blacks and delicate shades of gray. More aesthetic than erotic, this photo album certainly had a lot of assets to win me over, including an authentic Japanese-style binding that was distinctively assembled using red cord. What a revelation! to dazzle. This was not at all what I had come here early in the morning to seek, but I had money in my pocket, and this book, which attracted me so much, was in my hand; how could I resist?… So I went home with my first bare-bones anthology, and thus entered not my collection, which did not even exist in the planning stages, but my library, which now forms the basis of it. More than a thousand titles have been prepared in this set, even today.

But who was this Daniel Masclet (1892-1969) who dared to build it with the help of his wife Francesca, mentioned in the prologue. the first international nude photography exhibition In 1933, he hosted the famous (at the time). Renaissance Gallery From Royal Street? The forty-year-old, who has been engaged in photographic creativity for a long time and is well-known in this profession, cut his teeth with the famous Baron de Meyer. fashion for the whole decade. In touch with this perfectionist aesthetic, Masclet combined rigor and rigor in shooting and printing; a lesson he would put to good use in his future evolutions, which would lead him to become first a portraitist and later a landscape artist, in addition to being an active animator for his corporation. This did not prevent him from producing several bare copies, which were hidden in his edition – much to his chagrin, just as in Moral, which, like Verneuil, was far from his specialty. [Ill. 06] including 24 bare research collections, Women’s picturesIt had just been published by a young publishing house founded by Robert Denoël—I would say that it caught the eye of many of his colleagues, especially Louis Caillaud. [Ill. 07] stamped with gentle poetic sincerity.

Well aware of current creative events, Masclet invited more than fifty photographers from fifteen different nationalities to the exhibition, among which, apart from France, Germany, the United States and Great Britain were also most strongly represented. European countries such as Hungary and Czechoslovakia, for example, where photographic research was quite active, owe several shots by Drtikol (Ill. 08), who was extraordinarily inventive in the use of geometric ornamentation. Moholy-Nagy (Patient 09).

At the same time, one cannot help but be surprised in retrospect at the selection of Masklet, almost forgotten nowadays (admittedly, partly due to financial considerations that we are not aware of), who demanded nude pictures from his compatriots. Colleagues such as Verneuil and Caillaud, as well as Marcel Mays (to whom I will devote one of my next columns), but also Roger Schall, Emmanuel Sougez, Maurice Tabard, were accidentally or deliberately neglected for non-authentic artistic reasons. and his Parisian rival, Lucien Lorelle, for the portrait; even among the expatriates who stayed in Paris, Germaine Krull and Brassaï, whose careers as photographers had just begun, were remarkable absences. Nevertheless, he was particularly well informed about overseas photo news. In his exhibition – and later in this album, we owe the participation of the main American professionals William Mortensen, George Platt-Lynes (Patient 10) and Andreas Feininger … But Imogen Cunningham and Edward Weston, whom Masclet will adore after a while.
Some well-known actors from the English stage were also invited at that time, among others Bertram Park, author of numerous publications illustrated with nude photography with his wife Yvonne Gregory (The beauty of the female formRoutledge, 1934), Bernard Leedham, Fred Peel (Ill. 11) and Maurice Beck (Ill. 12) were in charge of the photography department in the 1920s. fashion English, Masclet reveals its sharp inclination through numerous reproductions. Many representatives of the burgeoning German school (despite the war having been over for only fifteen years) were selected, including Bruno Schultz (Ill. 13) and Alfred Grabner (Ill. 14), who would publish a preface. another late-decade bare anthology, the seminal Perckhammer (Ill. 15), is present in all the collective bare pamphlets published under the Weimar Republic. Franz Fiedler, the author of a beautiful portfolio a few years ago Künstlerische Aktaufnahmen (Artistic nudes ; Berlin, c. 1925) is unfortunately not represented here at the height of his talent. We also note the participation of the misunderstood Berliner Hans Robertson (Patient 16) in France, and the modernist photographer Willy Zielke (Patient 17), his successor if we end with Z, incorrectly as our illustration proves. Neue SachlichkeitIn turn, he published a brief but sensitive introduction to nude photography after World War II.

Check out this picture book « to the glory of the human body“As the French naturalists will soon express, it is a happiness that those with the privilege do not forget. However, this publication was not a real success for the general public (it was still new in the 1970s), but on the other hand, its influence was significant in the world of photography, and only two years later editions Form hastened to publish under his name Naked uniforms a competitive volume of the same theme, same size, same layout, presents many similarities with Masclet, but above all significant differences that can be explained by this formula: Naked uniforms (fig. 18) ” new Vision“, certainly radical, publish more conditional (according to the harsh judgment of Christian Bouqueret). The beauty of a woman ; what is represented metaphorically by the juxtaposition of one’s cotton tape mounting versus spiral metal binding.

A systematic comparison of content would be instructive, but it would take us too far today; we will return to it from time to time.

Alain-René Hardy

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