Erotic depictions of women in drawing, painting, sculpture and photography from the dawn of man to the present.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Swedish naturist Venuses from Tidlösa magazine: Part 1





1953


It's been horrible, wet and cold here today so I popped over to see my lady friend, A, and have some tea and a crumpet.  We were bemoaning the fact that not so long ago, we were able to spend largely naked days in her house and garden.  A enjoys being naked around the house, in the garden, when swimming and on the beach, without actually being a fully fledged naturist.  As she said,  "who wants to look at naked people eating?"   She added a rider in that certain fruit, such as ripe peaches and mangoes are best eaten naked.  Agent Triple P does not like soft fruit, however, as he feels it is more suitable for monkeys than people.




1953


This led to a discussion about naturism  and, in particular, the issues surrounding the confusion of nakedness and sexuality (which seems to exist, particularly, in the United States where the two are often conflated),  This is a large and complex subject but a lot depends on how the individual feels about nakedness.  Many other (especially) northern European countries have a more liberal view towards the naked body than Britain does and in Britain we are rather more liberal than the American  establishment attitude is, on the whole.  Although we acknowledge the importance of nakedness in American counter culture from the sixties onwards (which itself had a Germanic root).




 1953


Now we can't discuss these issues without some appropriate illustrations, of course.  Recently, we discovered, thanks to our friend Bettina, the Swedish naturist magazine Tidlösa, so we  have decided to showcase some of the (mostly) ladies enjoying their nakedness from  past issues of that magazine. We have put them in in roughly chronological order, starting with 1953 and going up to 1958.  We like them because they have real (albeit often very nice) bodies displayed in a way that would have been actually illegal in the UK or US at the time of publication.




1953


Given our recent posts on Leo Putz (here and here) we thought we would have a number of posts, over the next few weeks, of ladies disporting themselves naked in an alfresco setting.  Particularly as the weather has turned here and the joys of being naked outside in the sunshine seem far away!




1953


It also gives us an opportunity to look at the issue of naturism, which has been an organised movement in some countries for over a hundred years and is, rather different from just being naked outside or, indeed, inside.  In a second post we will look at an interesting report from the British Naturism organisation which had some interesting things to say about attitudes to naked bodies in the UK, where naturism is often considered a peculiar pastime undertaken by strange people.





1953


All the pictures in this and the next post come from the Swedish magazine Tidlösa, which was published from 1951 until 1968.  It was a 32 page magazine featuring pictures of young ladies, on the whole, happily disporting themselves naked, usually outside, by the water or in the countryside.  The magazine would also sometimes feature men and families but usually in group scenes not as feature portraits (unlike the later continental naturist magazine Helios, for example, which did occasionally have portraits of solo men).




1953


When we tried to find a translation of he name of the magazine, Tidlösa, we found that it was the name of a flower; the autumn crocus. That is odd, we thought, so we contacted our Swedish friend Anna who said that the word also meant 'timeless' which is what many of these pictures are.  The Swedish strapline of the magazine means "the journal for a life-loving, open-minded and unprejudiced outlook".




1953


As we can see, the Swedes had no problem with depicting pubic hair (and quite a lot of armpit hair, early on) right from the very earliest days of the magazine in the nineteen fifties, even on the cover of the magazine. Sweden still has a strong tradition of nudist beaches and Swedish people are used to seeing each other naked, especially in families, because of their sauna tradition.






This is something Triple P experienced with his Swedish friend Anna and her family when he went to stay at their country house in Dalecarlia a few years ago. No sooner had we arrived at their lovely lakeside house than we were invited into the sauna, alongside, not only a naked Anna but her naked teenage sister and her naked mother.  A very good way to get to know people!  Naked swimming, saunas and sunbathing was not an issue, even with a visitor present.  Although we have to confess that we don't enjoy saunas that much and just find them too hot for our taste.




Interestingly, Swedish artists like Anders Zorn and Carl Larsson had, as a matter of fact, also depicted pubic hair in their paintings at a time when its inclusion in British art, at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century, was very rare indeed, outside of life studies which would have not been exhibited. This is because British nudes in art at the time were based on a classical ideal and were not a simple reflection of reality. In fact, in order to get away with exhibiting a nude it was safest if it had a classical subject in Britain.  But as Hugh Hefner said, nearly twenty years after these pictures were first published, in 1971, "it's time that society grew up and recognised that pubic hair exists."  This recognition already existed in Northern Europe, as we can see, before the first issue of Playboy was published..






One of the activities that causes much amusement about naturists is how often they are portrayed playing with beach balls.  Do they really spend a lot of time playing with beach balls or is it one of those things that photographers make them do to make their pictures look more interesting?  Perhaps it is the equivalent of what photographers do with cyclists when they make them take their feet off the pedals and stick their legs out straight either side of the frame in a completely unnatural manner. Naked person! Give them a beach ball!




1953


It is a coincidence that the first issue of Playboy appeared, with its one pubic free nude, the same year as these uninhibited full frontal nude photographs were on sale in Europe. It would be fifteen years before Hugh Hefner could risk the very real threat of legal action against his magazine for perceived obscenity, caused by the depiction of pubic hair. Indeed, after he launched Playboy he even had to back off on the depiction of too many nipples in the magazine due to pressure, not from the authorities, but from Kodak who supplied the film for his pictures.




1953


Playboy's nudes, of course, were presenting sexually attractive women as beautiful and delightful objects, although the focus on the girl next door aspect of the centrefolds (and at this point the centrefold had just the one image) was supposed to project them as people.  In fact, we would suggest that this 'girl next door' trope was a later phenomenon, when biographical information and "normal life" photos were included as well.  In the early days of the magazine the nudes were brought in from outside and they were just desirable bodies.




1953


They were Playmates, after all.  The name itself projecting the idea of something that could be toyed with by a man. Indeed, in several of the early centrefolds there is often something in the shot to indicate that there is a man somewhere, lurking in the background of the setting, as if that is the only purpose of women; to enhance a man.  They don't do anything except pose for men.



1953


This increasing sexualisation of naked women in men's magazines really took a step forward with the publication of Bob Guccione's Penthouse in 1965. Up until this point, a good number of the outdoor nudes in Playboy could well have looked at home in a European naturist magazine such as this, except for the coyness as regards the groin.




1953


Of course, the key difference with the women in Tidlösa compared with Playboy in the mid-fifties is that they are all completely naked.  There are no teasing, partly dressed photos.  This goes to the heart of the presentation of naked people in photography and art.  It is the difference between the naked; the body uncovered and the nude; the body presented.






English has the two words for the same thing, of course.  'Naked' has a Germanic Anglo-Saxon root (nackt in modern German) whereas nude comes from Norman French (nu or nue, depending on gender in modern French).  This has caused people (Triple P included!) to attempt to distinguish the two.  The English art critic John Berger said that "to be naked is to be oneself. to be nude is to be seen by others and yet not recognised for oneself."




1953


"The nude," said Janet Hobhouse in her book The Bride Stripped Bare (1988) "is a fantasy of another human being, conjured out of memory and desire and fabricated by a process of subtractions and additions." It is the difference in intention of these pictures rather than the content or poses themselves that make these photographs of a different order than a Playboy nude of the time. Apart from the lone centrefold shot, any other (part) naked woman in Playboy  at this time were most likely to be exotic dancers, often photographed in burlesque clubs.. That is, women whose job was to sexually excite.




1953


The bodies in Playboy and, especially Penthouse, say to the viewer: "would you like to have sex with me?"  The bodies in Tidlösa say: "here I am enjoying myself without clothes".  Some are, indeed. posed in a manner similar to classical nudes in art rather than indulging in some activity (like throwing a beach ball). Yet it is an innocent nakedness meant to reflect chaste enjoyment of the world in  a natural state (which was where the German naturists were coming from at the beginning of the twentieth century) not an invitation to sexual activity.




1957


Triple P is a member of a site called Quora where people ask (often stupid - a recent classic was "is England considered to be a developed country?") questions and other people have to reply in a serious way (humour is discouraged, as Triple P has discovered!).  A digest of these questions pops up in our in-box every now and again.  Some questions are asked again and again in different forms.  Recurring ones from bemused Americans are: "how do British people feel safe in their homes without access to guns?" (er...) and "I have never had a girlfriend what can I do ?"(often asked by South Asians living abroad - perhaps it's more to do with the fact that they probably work in IT, rather than because they are from India).  There seem to be a lot of South Asians who use Quora and they all seem to have big hang-ups about the opposite sex.  Presumably, given the population of these countries, they eventually resolve them.  One that comes up (so to speak) reasonably often is "how do men at nudist camps not get erections?"  You just know that the people who are asking this are Americans (actually, maybe they are South Asians too),  They are so conditioned to identify nakedness with sex that the whole concept baffles them.




1953


Some of the women from Tidlösa are undeniably attractive but not all of them are. Yet their uninhibited nakedness is attractive in itself.  Their, to use a modern term, body confidence, shines through.  The two ladies washing in the water, from the August 1953 issue are not particularly pretty and they do not have the fine figures of the ladies on the boat jetty, perhaps, but they look confident, happy and fun.




1953


Another difference with men's magazines of the time, of course, is the depiction of naked men in the pages of Tidlösa.  There is nothing sexual in the pictures of men and women together even though both of these pictures demonstrate some mild affection.  Perhaps this couple did have sex with each other but that is not what the photo is saying.  It is, rather about communal enjoyment of a sunny day unencumbered by clothes.  Naturists are often derided for saying that they want to be 'as one with nature' but it is a simple enough pleasure, we think, to be naked in the sunshine in the countryside.




1953


Of  course, there is no getting around the fact that in the pre-men's magazine years there were those who realised that despite the original estimable aims of the naturist magazines they were a source of pictures of what was otherwise almost impossible to find for the man in the street: photographs of naked people. Bear in mind too that in most countries (certainly in the chilly, pre-central heating UK) people wore clothes in bed well into the sixties and seventies.  They had sex in these clothes.  Many married couples had never seen each other naked.  The naked body was mysterious and, therefore, illicit.




1953


The issue surrounding naturist magazines such as this was that even if they were originally designed for followers of the naturist (or nudist as it used to be called, when Triple P was younger - the term naturist was proposed by Health & Efficiency in 1934 but did not catch on until the sixties)) movement they still provided photographs of naked young women.  In the US, in particular, publishers of magazines realised that to call a magazine a naturist one avoided many (but not all) of the censorship issues of the time.  They became pornography magazines by the back door (so to speak).  Pubic hair wasn't shown in US men's magazines until the end of the sixties but naturist magazines were allowed to show it from the end of the fifties.  We will look at some of these (such as the notorious Jaybird series), in a future post.





1953


We have already seen in one of our Pubic Wars posts how this uneasy overlap between naturist and adult men's magazines developed through the example of Britain's pre-eminent naturist magazine. More than half a century before Tidlösa the famous British naturist magazine Health & Efficiency was first published as a diet, exercise and healthy lifestyle magazine  It soon latched on to the growing naturist movement coming from  Germany in the nineteen twenties. One hundred and sixteen years after its first issue it is still being published (now known as H&E Naturist).




1953


The German naturism movement had begun with Heinrich Pudor’s 1893 Nackende Menschen: Jauchzen der Zukunst (Naked Mankind: A Leap into the Future) which led, within a decade to the nacktkultur movement. Naturism was just one part of the back to nature Lebensreform (life reform) social movement in Germany, which began in the late nineteenth century. Different parts of the movement espoused such things as organic food, vegetarianism, alternative medicine, naturism and sexual liberation.  Nearly everything espoused by modern ecologists, too, originated in the same movement. It's not surprising that German sourced pictures (note the alpine ones) turned up in Tidlösa.  The sign, from the November 1953 issue, tells naked people not to proceed past this point.




1953


At the same time, in Germany, the wandervogel (wandering birds) movement, which was created in the Steglitz Grammar School in Berlin in 1896 was a similar back to nature movement but aimed at German youth. Encouraging physical activity (including naturism) and, especially after the Great War, nationalism, it merged with other scouting groups until it was abolished by the Nazis who took some aspects of its approach in the formation of the Hitler Youth. Hitler wanted to ban naturism but was worried about the political backlash in Germany at a time he was still consolidating his power.  When he was more secure, the Nazis did, indeed, ban the practice. The movement was revived after WW2 and continues to this day.


1953


1954


Naturism became increasingly popular in Germany, especially undcr the Weimar Republic and there were many German naturist magazines in the nineteen twenties and thirties which we will look at another time.  After World War 2 naturism continued to flourish, especially in communist East Germany as naturism had originated, geographically, in and around Berlin.




1954


British naturism actually dates back to an organisation called The fellowship for the naked trust,  formed by three men in India in 1891.  It was the world's first organised naturist organisation. After the First World War, back in Britain, the first naturist club in the UK was founded in 1924, at a country house in Essex.  Earlier than this, naked sunbathing was taking place at a reservoir in Brent, not far from Wembley Stadium, from 1921 until 1930 when several hundred people gathered and attacked the naturists, demonstrating the usual British attitude to naked people and shouting: ‘Not even cannibals would lie about in that condition! Hottentots would behave with more decency: you are a rotten lot of dogs!’  Captain HH Vincent, a naturist who wanted to organise a naked march in London was arrested in Hyde Park in 1927 for indecent exposure for sunbathing bare chested!





1955


Naturism, rather than healthy lifestyle and diet became the dominating subject of Health & Efficiency. There was a real boom in such clubs in Britain after World War 2, surprisingly, given our weather and the magazine provided details of clubs around the country.  Health and Efficiency did not however even offer bare breasts on its covers in the late fifties (although it had in the thirties).




1955


Naturism in Britain was confined to clubs, though.  The naked bathing permitted at lakes and by the sea in Germany and Sweden was not allowed. Britain didn't get its first official nudist beach (the shingle covered and windswept Brighton) until 1979. This, to a certain extent, ghettoised it and the closed nature of naturism helped give it the illicit image that nineteen fifties British comedies reinforced.  All those naked people must be up to something disgraceful in their camps, thought the British.  The family aspects seen on the waterfronts of continental Europe were not appreciated.  Being naked in a public place remained a criminal offence in Britain until 2003. Even now. context and intention play a large part in whether you will attract the attention of the police if you strip off in Britain.  Strip off on a quiet beach and you will be fine.  Do it in Hyde Park and you will attract attention (unlike German parks, for example, which often have clothing optional areas).






American art critic Linda Nochlin has referred to the "customary English revulsion from nakedness".  Internet comments on the recent Cambridge University naked charity calendar, sadly, hold that this is still true but with one bemused German wondering why they were covering their breasts and genitals up, as in Germany the students would have been happy to show everything.






There is a big difference, of course, in being naked with other naked people in a closed camp and being naked in the open countryside or by the sea.  Naked beaches are a sort of half way house. We find the idea of taking a holiday in a resort where everyone is naked all the time, whatever they are doing, a little odd, whereas we thoroughly approve of being naked by the sea or in the country. There was a strong movement in Germany for the latter, where things such as naked hiking were popular.  The camp, it seems to us, brings in a level of artificiality which goes against the idea of natural nakedness. It is, if you will, contrived nakedness as against natural nakedness.




1955


So apart from the small minority of British naturists (British Naturism has around 16,000 members, the German equivalent has 600,000 members), the interest for many buyers in Health & Efficiency, of course, was in its pictures of naked people. Tidlösa, as we have seen, was no different to Health & Efficiency in disproportionately featuring young, attractive women in its pages.





1955


Although in 1955, the magazine featured many more family group pictures on its covers (which we dare not show, however innocent).  It was, perhaps, more consciously pushing naturism as a family friendly movement rather than just providing figure studies of attractive women.




1956


It didn't mean they turned their back on the girls, however, because, after all, they had a magazine to sell and although all of these magazines must have realised that they weren't being bought just by naturists they weren't going to say no to the income.




 1956


If we look at men's magazines in Britain in the fifties there wasn't an equivalent of Playboy, which was not available in the UK until the sixties.  The lack of it in the UK market was actually one of the things that caused Bob Guccione to launch Penthouse in Britain in 1965.  Although there were magazines featuring the occasional topless girl or scrupulously retouched art nudes, pictures of naked women were not easily available to the average person.  Even when Britain's first girly magazine, Harrison Marks' Kamera, launched in 1957 (there was no pubic hair, of course) it was considered so outrageous that it was not sold on public display (unlike Health and Efficiency).




1956


So if you wanted to see pictures of naked ladies then Health & Efficiency was the only way for most British people to go.  This meant, of course that the readership became much wider than genuine naturists as it provided ordinary British people the opportunity to see photographs of naked people, perhaps for the first time.  They did not display themselves like the Swedes and Germans, though; groin shots were avoided or pubic hair was removed leaving curiously smooth, featurless and unnatural looking mounds.




1957


The issue as regards the celebration of innocent nudity got diluted, of course by the use of professional models in these magazines.  While many of the people who appeared in Tidlösa are obviously just genuine naturists it is possible that some of the bodies belonged to models; although the two could, of course, be combined.  Some of Playboy's earliest Playmates were nudists, for example.




1957


Of course in the UK and US the arrival of more and more men's magazines in the sixties and seventies in an atmosphere of ever increasing liberalism about nudity saw the naturist press losing their unique selling point.  In the nineteen seventies, seeing that the likes of Mayfair was eating into its readership Health & Efficiency began to use the same models who appeared in men's magazines at the time. Critics said that these pictures of beautiful and increasingly provocatively posed girls were no different from the men's magazines and diluted the innocent nakedness for all argument the nudist magazines supposedly espoused.




1957


The editors of the naturist magazines, of course, said that using professional models was to attract  people to the naturist movement not to provide material for sexual arousal.  One US naturist photographer admitted that he would try to get shots of normal people at naturist clubs for the magazines he worked for but most people were too shy to pose, so he had to take professional models with him to the clubs on his shoots.  The magazines began to use a mix of shots of ordinary naturists and professional models.




1957


One thing you would not find in Health & Efficiency in the UK or it's American equivalents at this time were men displaying their penises, of course.  The Swedes had no problem with these ,although the men only appeared with women, not in the figure studies that featured solo women.  The German magazines, however, did often print male studies.





1958


Although the magazine was in black and white they employed clever use of limited tones on the cover to give an illusion of full colour.  The bodies, of course, look more immediate presented in this way. 





1958


Increasingly, the photographs were being taken in the sunny Mediterranean too, rather than on the shores of the chilly Baltic.  This provoked a very different atmosphere in the pages of the magazine.  Tan lines became visible for the first time.




1958


Of course sunning yourself naked in the hot sunshine is one thing but posing naked in the snow is another and this poor woman had to suffer for art at the top of a mountain.  It is not, perhaps, a very plausible reflection of naturist life to frolic in the snow like this, unless you are running from the sauna to a freezing lake.  Or maybe the idea is to say naturists are tough, we don't care what the weather is, we don't need those pesky clothes!




1958


So we have Scandinavians and Germans not only happily cavorting in the sun but being photographed doing so and having those pictures published in magazines without censorship.   But where did that leave Britons at the end of the fifties?  In Britain, naturism became very popular after World War 2 although the naturists congregated in their chilly camps must have dreamed of escaping to the Mediterranean.  The fact that they could, more and more, with the arrival of cheap package holidays in the sixties and seventies led to a decline in UK nudist camps as naturists went to nude beaches in Yugoslavia or French resorts like Cap d'Agde.


March 


Britain was still left with a legacy of Victorian prudery and a repressed understanding of sexuality that meant that nudity and sexuality were both regarded as bad.  References to sexual things in Britain today are still often linked to epithets such as 'naughty; 'dirty' or 'filthy'.  Nakedness is, at best, seen as sexually provocative and something to be hidden (especially from children).




1958


This was not always the case here.  In the late seventeenth century there was no such thing as a swimsuit and men and women bathed naked together in the sea and in the many spa baths around the country.   As sea bathing became more popular women started to wear shifts but men continued to bathe naked and so, in the Victorian period, segregated beaches were introduced with naked bathing often only being allowed before 8.00am.  However, seaside resorts were worried about losing holidaymakers to the continent where mixed bathing was permitted and introduced mixed beaches in Britain.  This led to a cover up for both sexes. Boys, however, as old as fifteen still bathed naked on beaches, much to the shock of nineteenth century American visitors who had to cover their wives' and daughters' eyes.  In Europe nude bathing was permitted at the coast and in rivers for both sexes, in countries like France and Germany,




1958


When Triple P was growing up both of our parents slept naked (which was unusual at the time), as we children well knew. No one bothered to put on a dressing gown or  other clothes if they were going to or from the bathroom.  We all knew what naked bodies looked like and didn't think that nakedness was wrong or rude.  Triple P and his sister shared a bath until we were, basically, too big for the bath.





1958


Although Agent Triple P's first experience of skinny-dipping (a late nineteen forties term) had a sexual element we have bathed naked in rivers, seas and lakes since and just enjoyed the freedom of swimming naked.  A sensual but not necessarily sexual experience, even in mixed company.  We once went skinny dipping with our then girlfriend in Greece late at night  from boats, with a a group of people who included two (British) senior former army officers and their wives.  All of them were in their sixties or seventies.  The caper was organised by another lady in her sixties who was Yugoslavian, where naked beaches were common from the late fifties and early sixties.




1958


We remember once being in the Pyrenees, when we were about ten, with our family, our mother's sister and her husband.  We were having a pic-nic next to a shallow river in a rocky valley with pools and cataracts.  It was blistering hot and after lunch Triple P's aunt stripped completely naked and jumped into one of the pools.  None of us had swimming things with us but all of us, aged between eight and forty-eight, followed suit.




1958


None of us were in a hurry to get dressed and we weren't really paying attention to the world around us so hadn't noticed another family appear at the same site.  Fortunately, they were German and immediately stripped off and jumped into the river as well.  They had two young boys, about ten and eleven and it says much for Triple P and his sister's attitude that we just played naked jumping around the rocks with them,while the grown ups got dressed in a leisurely fashion. 




1958


So, this is the attitude to nakedness that Triple P grew up with.  Of course, as a teenager we would respond to pictures of attractive naked women but we never considered nakedness rude (or even worse, as we heard American schoolchildren calling a nude painting at a gallery in Boston, disgusting).  An attractive body is an attractive body and different body shapes can be attractive too if the person, crucially, has the right body confidence. However, this is not the case for many in Britain and in Part 2 we will look at a recent survey by British Naturism which suggests that the country's peculiar attitudes to nakedness are causing social problems among youngsters here.




We will illustrate it with more of these charming photos from Tidlösa  as we move from the late fifties to the sixties.

6 comments:

  1. Fascinating history. I am looking forward to more posts on this subject

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  2. Another fascinating and well researched post. Have you seen H&E magazine lately? - it's even more prudish that Playboy these days!! The absurdity of it - a naturist magazine where nudity is coyly covered up or airbrushed out. I had to check the cover to make sure it was still 2016! What is the world coming to - are the wowsers and prudes running these publications now?

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    1. I have to say that I haven't seen a copy since the seventies. It doesn't surprise me though. Soon the only place you will be able to see naked ladies on the newsstands is in women's magazines!

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  3. What a host of lovely naked ladies.

    One of the English common names of tidlösa (Colchicum autumnale) is Naked Ladies, as the flowers are produced when there are no leaves on the plant. It seems they are also called nakna jungfrun in Sweden. This would be Naked Young Ladies or Naked Virgins. The name has been used in Sweden since at least 1792. The earliest mention in the OED is 1668. Some in the US use Naked Ladies for the Belladonna lily (Amaryllis belladonna) which also flowers without leaves present.

    Naked Boys is a variant found in English as early as 1692 which may be used of either the Colchicum or an autumn-flowering true crocus, Crocus nudiflorus.

    http://linnaeus.nrm.se/flora/mono/colchica/colch/colcaut.html

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    1. That is really interested. My Swedish freind was mumbling over the phone that Tidlosa and naked ladies was the same but I assumed that it was a term for actual named ladies used because of the name of the magazine whereas it is still about croci!

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  4. I am from the southern United States and here is a quote that sums up how we feel about nudity. "In the south there's a difference between 'Naked' and 'Nekkid'. 'Naked' means you don't have any clothes on. 'Nekkid' means you don't have any clothes on and you're up to somethin'." Lewis Grizzard

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