Maiden Voyages: September 2014

Sometimes, I can’t get over how wonderful our readers are. The only reason Pigtails in Paint still exists is because of our readers. And as our readership increases, this site gains credibility and resources which can make our site even better. I am still not sure what Pigtails’ ultimate function will be, but I am confident that we are addressing something important that does not get talked about in popular culture.

One of the things I am pleased to see right now is that my dream of having more writers contribute is starting to happen. Ami has told me she has begun work on a Mark Ryden post. WCL is doing a post on some interesting statues he found in cemeteries. Another writer is promising a scholarly piece on the famous—iconic really—image of a naked Vietnamese girl fleeing a Napalm attack. Yet another wants to do a piece on Ida Teichmann and another is working on Range Murata.

In the last month, one of the artists we featured, Zoltán Jókay, requested that his images be removed from our site. This was a surprise, because of all people, I would expect artists to be tolerant and to understand the need for a range of expression that say something meaningful. Also, anyone who has taken a closer look at this site realizes that we are offering substance, not just eye-candy. When a person cannot take the time to recognize this, he/she reinforces the corrupt paradigms of mainstream culture.

Another brief item is that Graham Ovenden is scheduled to be released from prison in November, assuming there are no new developments.

I have been meaning to mention an amazing documentary called Tim’s Vermeer. Because it does not deal with little girls, I could not make an excuse to make a dedicated post. However, anyone who has any interest in art history or technique owes it to himself to see this. I don’t want to spoil the premise except to say it is about the painter Vermeer and it will blow you away.

I also read an interesting book review. Understandably, the conflict in Afghanistan has been taking its toll on girls and it appears that some Afghan families are raising their girls as boys in order to give them access to education and other privileges offered exclusively to boys. It is hard to bring out most of the complexities of this situation, so I recommend anyone interested in gender roles or the devastation of military conflict read The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg.

Thank you for your time. -Ron

Bug Splats

I noticed this item and it reminded me of protest street art writ large. Although it is a kind of escalation of the art form, given the magnitude of the issue, it seems perfectly appropriate here. And you will not find any local people calling this an eyesore or defacement of property.

Combat is messy, but in the modern age of advanced technology, combatants can destroy their targets from a distance, practically eliminating any emotional impact. This godlike power has no small psychological affect and drone operators often refer to kills as “bug splats”, since viewing the body through a grainy video image gives the sense of an insect being crushed. To challenge this insensitivity and raise awareness of civilian casualties, an artist collective installed a massive portrait in the Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa region of Pakistan—where drone attacks regularly occur. Now, when viewed by a drone camera, an operator sees not an anonymous dot on the landscape, but an innocent child victim’s face. The child featured in the poster is not named, but is reported to have lost both her parents and two young siblings in a drone attack.

MQ-1 Predator camera footage - Not a Bug Splat Installation (2014)

MQ-1 Predator camera footage – Not a Bug Splat Installation (2014)

The installation is also designed to be captured by satellites in the hope that it will become a permanent part of the landscape on online mapping sites. Read more here.

The Definition of Gymnastics: Ernst Vollmar and Ludwig Hohlwein

In contemporary society, students find it surprising that the word “gymnastic” comes from the Greek meaning to train or exercise naked. Further digging would reveal the ancient Greek ideal of the nude masculine form, the foundation of the Classical Nude in sculpture. The peculiarities of that culture relegated women and children to second-class status except in those few instances when a young boy happened to catch the fancy of a powerful older patron. In today’s more complex world, children feel more iconic of the notion of free spirits than those “free” and chauvinistic citizens of the ancient city-states.

A wonderful book has come to my attention that I felt ought to be shared right away. It is a photographically illustrated book on children’s gymnastics published in 1925 called Kinder Gymnastik im Spiel (Children’s Gymnastics in Play), written by Alice Bloch and published by Dieck & Co.

Ludwig Hohlwein - Kinder Gymnastik im Spiel (cover) (1925)

Ludwig Hohlwein – Kinder Gymnastik im Spiel (cover) (1925)

The cover illustration was painted by Ludwig Hohlwein (1874-1949), a well-known illustrator of posters. Lamentably, he did not do any other work featuring children in this style. The photographs were by Ernst Vollmar. Practically nothing is known of him except that he was a contemporary of Lotte Herrlich, Carl Lepper and Genja Jonas who also did much work with German naturists. The first two images set the stage showing everyday scenes and some pagan-inspired rituals commonly associated with these communities.

Ernst Vollmar - from Kinder Gymnastik im Spiel (1925) (1)

Ernst Vollmar – from Kinder Gymnastik im Spiel (1925) (1)

Ernst Vollmar - from Kinder Gymnastik im Spiel (1925) (2)

Ernst Vollmar – from Kinder Gymnastik im Spiel (1925) (2)

The book was not meant to be the kind of serious exercise guide that would become ubiquitous later in the more regimented and rigorous Nazi regime. It is as the title suggests—playful. The names of the exercises are clearly light-hearted or fanciful: Sounds of Spring, Clapping to the Beat, Blowing Trumpets, Leapfrog, Rocking Horse, Ostrich, Somersaults and Scurrying Like Mice. Quite a few of them required interaction with a partner. The first illustrates some mock flute blowing.

Ernst Vollmar - from Kinder Gymnastik im Spiel (1925) (3)

Ernst Vollmar – from Kinder Gymnastik im Spiel (1925) (3)

The next shows two children forming an arch or gate.

Ernst Vollmar - from Kinder Gymnastik im Spiel (1925) (4)

Ernst Vollmar – from Kinder Gymnastik im Spiel (1925) (4)

These children appear to be hopping like rabbits. I remember an incident when eBay refused to allow a seller to post an image of a girl in such a pose even while wearing a swimsuit! I suppose Playboy has spoiled the sweet innocence of the bunny for many of us.

Ernst Vollmar - from Kinder Gymnastik im Spiel (1925) (5)

Ernst Vollmar – from Kinder Gymnastik im Spiel (1925) (5)

It is interesting how stereotypes and language change. The caption calls the next image “Greeting Like a Mohammedan”. Mohammedan is an old-fashioned term for Muslim, but perhaps the American term “Sitting Indian Style” is more appropriate as this meditative posture was in wide use in northern India well before the advent of Buddhism or Islam.

Ernst Vollmar - from Kinder Gymnastik im Spiel (1925) (6)

Ernst Vollmar – from Kinder Gymnastik im Spiel (1925) (6)

These girls are demonstrating “Flying Like a Bird”.

Ernst Vollmar - from Kinder Gymnastik im Spiel (1925) (7)

Ernst Vollmar – from Kinder Gymnastik im Spiel (1925) (7)

Different stages of this “Clock-Flower” are illustrated in the book.

Ernst Vollmar - from Kinder Gymnastik im Spiel (1925) (8)

Ernst Vollmar – from Kinder Gymnastik im Spiel (1925) (8)

Here are two illustrations of the “Flying Jump”.

Ernst Vollmar - from Kinder Gymnastik im Spiel (1925) (9)

Ernst Vollmar – from Kinder Gymnastik im Spiel (1925) (9)

It is hard to say what these girls are doing, but it appears to be some kind of alternating stroke motion.

Ernst Vollmar - from Kinder Gymnastik im Spiel (1925) (10)

Ernst Vollmar – from Kinder Gymnastik im Spiel (1925) (10)

There are many scenes of these girls skipping rope.

Ernst Vollmar - from Kinder Gymnastik im Spiel (1925) (11)

Ernst Vollmar – from Kinder Gymnastik im Spiel (1925) (11)

It should be pointed out that naturism was very popular at the time. A demonstration of this was the fact that Hitler and the Nazis initially wanted to ban these practices, but thought better of it and instead incorporated them into special events promoting their notions of racial supremacy.

I have been informed by one of our readers that some of these images also appeared in a book called Book of Nudes (2007) by Alessandro Bertolotti but in a smaller format.

15 Seconds of Fame

I know the expression is supposed to be “15 minutes of fame”, but I think that only applies to those who seek fame. If one has mediocre talent and is very ambitious, one can expect to get at least that. However, there are many who are wonderful team players who make things work behind the scenes. I remember watching the director’s commentary on The Incredibles and how an animator who put his heart and soul into a scene would get only a few seconds of air time in the final cut. The efforts of people like this creates a credible atmosphere in the film so the viewer can be completely immersed in the story.

The same goes for set and costume designers who also get little recognition. An instance I would like to single out appears in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005). Emma Watson (as Hermoine Granger) and Evanna Lynch (as Luna Lovegood) certainly deserve notice, but I would like to recognize one other who may have slipped under your radar.

Angelica Mandy played a very small role as Gabrielle Delacour, the little sister of Fleur—one of the Tri-Wizard Champions. Costume designer Jany Temime and her team designed the stunning silver suit Mandy wore as she somersaulted into the scene during her school’s introduction. The shot lasts only a few seconds and we mostly see it from the rear.

J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves and Mike Newell - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) (1)

J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves and Mike Newell – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) (1)

Even when we do see it from the front, it is cut off because the emphasis is on Fleur.

J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves and Mike Newell - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) (2)

J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves and Mike Newell – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) (2)

The only way we get to see the front is in the outtakes. As the actors were not experienced in coreography, they fumble around a bit trying to get it right and some of the footage is shared in the video extras. The silver body suit is accented by a feathery fringe around the collar and sleeves and some extra flames were painted on the abdomen and thigh portions of the suit to give it a dynamic, fiery appearance.

J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves and Mike Newell - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (outtakes) (1)

J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves and Mike Newell – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (outtakes) (1)

J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves and Mike Newell - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (outtakes) (2)

J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves and Mike Newell – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (outtakes) (2)

Here she appears to be wearing a cloak over it as she sits down by her sister. You can still see some of the fringe on the sleeve.

J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves and Mike Newell - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) (3)

J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves and Mike Newell – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) (3)

There are only two other scenes where Mandy’s character is featured as more than a spectator. Here she is underwater waiting to be rescued in the tournament’s second task.

J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves and Mike Newell - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) (4)

J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves and Mike Newell – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) (4)

And here she thanks Ron for helping to save her in that incident.

J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves and Mike Newell - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) (5)

J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves and Mike Newell – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) (5)

Mandy—who was about 12 during shooting—also appeared as the young Becky Sharp in Vanity Fair (2004) and supposedly appeared in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, probably in the wedding scene.  As it was only a cameo and she was much older, I was not able to spot her.

William Makepeace Thackeray et al - Vanity Fair (2004)

William Makepeace Thackeray et al – Vanity Fair (2004)

Tree Babies: Jack Gescheidt

As Ron has remarked before (I think), it’s odd how the most seemingly unrelated things can lead one to on-topic images.  Such was the case here.  What started as research of famous weird trees after reading a Facebook article about the most beautiful trees in the world in short order brought me to the work of Jack Gescheidt, and eventually to this photograph.

One of the trees featured in the FB article was the so-called Angel Oak (which actually has it’s own Wikipedia page), and I decided to run the term through Google Image to see the tree more in-depth.  But something caught my attention: there were several photos of this tree with naked people on or around it.  Although none of the thumbnail images I initially saw in the search appeared to have children in them, I loved the whole concept and started to peruse those.  I discovered that many of these images were taken by the same photographer, Gescheidt, and I explored his website.  Now, many of his photos, although technically proficient, weren’t particularly interesting to me, but I found Gescheidt’s naked tree people images to be quite lovely and unique.  They were part of something called the TreeSpirit Project, which has its own website that includes a gallery page, and that’s where I came across this photo.

Please note: the vast majority of the images there contain nude adults only.  A couple have infants of indeterminate gender in them, and only one—this one—contained young girls identifiable as such.  All of the images are beautiful nonetheless; you really should check them out.

Edit: Jack Gescheidt replied to this article and pointed out that the TreeSpirit Project is ultimately about bringing attention to the beauty and importance of trees, which is a passion I share. So, please do visit his website, and better yet, contribute to his wonderful and vital cause!

Jack Gescheidt - May Day, May Day (2012)

Jack Gescheidt – May Day, May Day (2012)

Anxiety and Reconciliation: Tomi Ungerer

Sometimes, when an important figure slips through the cracks of history, a passionate filmmaker comes forward to tell the story so that his contribution is not wasted. Far Out Isn’t Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story (2012) is dedicated to an imaginative children’s storybook writer and illustrator.

Tomi Ungerer - A Storybook: Petronella (1974)

Tomi Ungerer – A Storybook: Petronella (1974)

Jean-Thomas Ungerer (born 1931) was raised in Alsace, France, a region that has alternated between French and German control over the centuries. During the Nazi occupation, he found it was possible to learn a new language in only four months when the public use of even one French word was punishable. After the liberation of France, he discovered monsters among his own countrymen as he watched them burn German books in retaliation—not just the Nazi books, but those of Kant, Goethe, Schopenhauer, etc. Ungerer was able to express his childhood anxieties, which continued to haunt him throughout his life, by drawing. He was particularly inspired by illustrations appearing in The New Yorker magazine, especially those of Saul Steinberg, who taught him how a clear image can be conveyed with a minimum of lines or elements. You can see him toy with this idea in Snail, Where Are You? (1962) where a simple snail shape is revealed to be a part or a bigger scene (an ocean wave, a ram’s horn, etc.).

In 1956, he moved to the United States where he believed there would be more opportunities and became embroiled in controversy. His stories did not reflect the usual sentiments about what a children’s book should be and despite his vivid imagination, critics complained that many of his themes and images were too frightening. In 1958, he published Crictor about a boa constrictor sent to an old woman as a gift. Defying the stereotypical portrayal of snakes and people’s natural fear, he made Crictor a sympathetic character. The people of the town got used to Crictor’s presence, he played with the children and one day, after restraining a robber who was terrorizing the town, he became a hero. It is hard to imagine now, but as the book was being considered for an award, the judges felt they could not choose it on principle. Fortunately, cooler heads finally prevailed.

Tomi Ungerer - Crictor (1958)

Tomi Ungerer – Crictor (1958)

After centuries under Christian domination, most Westerners are conditioned to view things through the lens of good and evil. But in many other parts of the world, monsters are more ambiguous; Godzilla and Gamera in Japanese films are well-known examples. While the robber in Crictor was a villain, The Three Robbers (1961) turn out to be compassionate characters. Naturally, they robbed people, but in the course of their escapades, they rescued little Tiffany from an unhappy life with her stepmother. They began to use their wealth to feed and clothe her and eventually collected orphaned children and settled them in a village where they could grow up happily.

Tomi Ungerer - The Three Robbers (1961) (1)

Tomi Ungerer – The Three Robbers (1961) (1)

Tomi Ungerer - The Three Robbers (1961) (2)

Tomi Ungerer – The Three Robbers (1961) (2)

Tomi Ungerer - The Three Robbers (1961) (3)

Tomi Ungerer – The Three Robbers (1961) (3)

Tomi Ungerer - The Three Robbers (1961) (4)

Tomi Ungerer – The Three Robbers (1961) (4)

Ungerer also illustrated some classic stories such as Changing Places where a man and wife trade duties for a day—the man thinking he got the better part of the deal. He also illustrated his own rendition of Little Red Riding Hood (1974). The classic story already has strongly Freudian connotations: the symbolism of the red hood, the roles of the grandmother and the huntsman, not to mention an innocent girl’s encounter with a wolf. Ungerer’s version does not offer us a sly seducer with a hidden agenda, but a powerful gangster named Duke who decides to make Red Riding Hood a forthright proposal. Like The Three Robbers, the girl in this story has an abusive grandmother and would rather not continue bringing her care packages. Duke argues that since the grandmother’s reputation is even worse than his, Red Riding Hood would be better off staying with him. The detail of the Iron Cross around his neck suggests that he is also symbolic of German aggression against a vulnerable “French” Red Riding Hood. This makes Ungerer’s resolution to the story interesting and prophetic as he later dedicated his life to an amicable reconciliation between the French and German people.

Tomi Ungerer - A Storybook: Little Red Riding Hood (1974)

Tomi Ungerer – A Storybook: Little Red Riding Hood (1974)

Tomi Ungerer - A Storybook: Changing Places (1974)

Tomi Ungerer – A Storybook: Changing Places (1974)

Another interesting story with a surprising twist is Zeralda’s Ogre (1967). It seems an ogre has been terrorizing a town and eating its children. In response, the townsfolk do their best to hide their children much to the ogre’s frustration. Meanwhile, a farmer in a remote area who had not heard of the ogre becomes ill and has to send his only daughter to the town market to sell their wares. As she approaches, the ogre spots her and eagerly waits to pounce. But in his eagerness, he falls off a cliff and is hurt. Zeralda, distressed over this, nurses him back to health.

Tomi Ungerer - Zeralda's Ogre (1967) (1)

Tomi Ungerer – Zeralda’s Ogre (1967) (1)

It happens that Zeralda is an exceptional cook and in caring for the ogre, he is impressed by her extravagant cuisine and decides he much prefers it to children. Indeed, like “Duke” in the previous story, he proposes she stay with him to cook and shares his wealth to help her and her father. As he is no longer a menace, the children of the town are seen outside again and eventually the two fall in love, the ogre shaves his beard and they have lots of children!

Tomi Ungerer - Zeralda's Ogre (1967) (2)

Tomi Ungerer – Zeralda’s Ogre (1967) (2)

Tomi Ungerer - Zeralda's Ogre (1967) (3)

Tomi Ungerer – Zeralda’s Ogre (1967) (3)

A fertile mind like Ungerer’s would not have been satisfied with just children’s books. During a trip to Texas, he was appalled to discover the existence of segregation. After surviving a fascist regime himself, he was surprised to find something like this happening in America. According to Ungerer, this revelation prompted an explosion of creative output—a series of politically satirical posters. He later expanded his satire to include protests over the Vietnam conflict. At the time, it was not considered appropriate for an illustrator of children’s books to do work in other genres, so his political satire ruffled a few feathers, to say the least. The greatest trouble, however, was caused when he began to explore erotic subjects and even published books in that genre. Before the days of the internet, it took time for word to spread. And when he was finally confronted at a book fair and, not recognizing the strength of the taboo, Ungerer simply shot back with a facetious remark. Practically overnight, his career was ended as libraries banned his children’s books and a whole generation, including mine, grew up without exposure to this artist’s vivid imagination. He moved with his family to a remote part of Nova Scotia for a time and in 1976 to West Cork, Ireland where he lives today. Beginning in the 1990s, with the enthusiastic support of his fans, Ungerer’s popularity began to return and now many of his children’s books have been republished.

Ungerer inspired many artists including Maurice Sendak, author of Where the Wild Things Are (1963). His biggest accolade came in 1998 when he was awarded the international Hans Christian Andersen Medal for his “lasting contribution” as a children’s illustrator. Many of Ungerer’s manuscripts and artwork for his early children’s books can be viewed at the Children’s Literature Research Collection at the Free Library of Philadelphia. In 2007, Strasbourg—his birthplace where he still makes frequent visits—dedicated a museum to him, the Musée Tomi Ungerer/Centre international de l’illustration.

Tomi Ungerer Official Site
Saul Steinberg Foundation

Lladró’s Beach Babes

As summer nears an end (in the Northern Hemisphere), I feel compelled to cover something of the beach scene. As you may already know, I am fond of Lladró figurines and feel their style captures the essence of demure feminity. There are plenty of interesting Lladró pieces that I have yet to cover on Pigtails and I share some of them now.

One piece in particular, I feel comes out of left field. It belongs to a series of children with a day-of-the-week theme—one for girls and one for boys. Monday’s Child (girl) (6012) is an enigma with its peculiar mixture of elements. It appears to be a bathing beauty with a parasol, holding an ice cream cone near a tempted puppy. It illustrates very well the way the company molds and then assembles each piece separately. What is perplexing is that I cannot determine the place and time the design is supposed to represent. The frilly parasol suggests an upper-class girl of perhaps the Edwardian period, but the outfit is a kind of two-piece bikini. The skirt, however, looks like it belongs to a cheerleading or other dance uniform rather than a bathing suit. I find it a charming piece, but I can’t help wondering if this kind of outfit ever existed or if it is just a bit of clever fantasy?

Lladró - 6012 Monday's Child (girl) (1993) (1)

Lladró – 6012 Monday’s Child (girl) (1993) (1)

Lladró - 6012 Monday's Child (girl) (1993) (2)

Lladró – 6012 Monday’s Child (girl) (1993) (2)

Lladró - 6012 Monday's Child (girl) (1993) (3)

Lladró – 6012 Monday’s Child (girl) (1993) (3)

Lladró - 6012 Monday's Child (girl) (1993) (4)

Lladró – 6012 Monday’s Child (girl) (1993) (4)

Perhaps the most important rule for caring for one’s precious collectibles is: never expose them to direct sunlight. The temptation is to show them off in a prominent place, but that will expose them to long-term damage. Here is an example of a Monday’s Child whose colors were slightly bleached because of this.

Lladró - 6012 Monday's Child (girl) (1993) (5)

Lladró – 6012 Monday’s Child (girl) (1993) (5)

Another Lladró beach classic is Sandcastles (5488) and I am always impressed with any piece where the hat is not an unwelcome distraction.

Lladró - 5488 Sandcastles (1988)

Lladró – 5488 Sandcastles (1988)

Free as a Butterfly (1483) illustrates the southern European convention of allowing girls to appear topless up to a certain age or level of development.

Lladró - 1483 Free as a Butterfly (1985)

Lladró – 1483 Free as a Butterfly (1985)

Lladró official site
Other Lladró posts: ‘Fantastic Creatures’, ‘Young Blossoms’ and ‘An Exercise in Composition’

Public Moments: Zoltán Jókay

Mr. Jókay has informed Pigtails in Paint that he does not wish his work to be presented here.  His admittedly hasty examination of this site has led to a misunderstanding about our purpose.  After some communication back and forth, he retracted his more outrageous claims and simply stated that he did not like our material and to please remove his work.  As an education and critical review site, we are not obligated to accede to Mr. Jókay’s wishes and no artist, academic or other public figure can reasonably expect to avoid scrutiny when it does not suit them; but given that he took the trouble to communicate with us and our desire to foster goodwill among artists, his images are being removed and this disclaimer added.  The work referred to can be easily found on his website, so I apologize for the necessity of visiting another site for the images.  This request strongly demonstrates the great need for a better educated public and greater tolerance for those who expose the hypocrisy of mainstream culture.  Anyone wanting more clarification or in-depth debate over this issue are invited to share their comments at the end of this post.  -Ron, Editor-in-Chief

This post was delayed almost two years because, at the time I discovered this artist and began to put his material together, WordPress rather perfunctorily shut this site down. Therefore, this post represents the final phase of my psychological recovery from that episode.

[Zoltán Jókay - Remembering #6 (c1990) and Zoltán Jókay - Growing Up #6 (c2000) removed at artist's request]

Zoltán Jókay was born of Hungarian parents in Munich in 1960. In 1984 he studied communication design at the University in Essen and got his diploma in 1993. He has since received a number of grants and prizes for artistic photography.

[Zoltán Jókay - Remembering #4 (c1990) and Zoltán Jókay - Growing Up #11 (c2000) removed at artist's request]

His work focuses on the aesthetic documentation of young people in public places. He does not shoot his subjects as a documentarian attempting to detach himself from events and letting the viewer make his own judgments. Instead, he seems to have a genuine liking for his subjects and conveys his feelings to us through his work. Though these images are public, they are also intimate, demonstrating the level of trust needed to capture these “moments of grace”, as one critic put it. Jókay acknowledges the full scope of participatory art and says that his work is comprised of three authors: himself, those being photographed and the viewer. So he is actively inviting us into the process as well, like some kind of psychic matchmaker.

[Zoltán Jókay - Remembering #10 (c1990) and Zoltán Jókay - Growing Up #19 (c2000) removed at artist's request]

It is easy, when one does not consider the skill behind it to just dismiss these images as merely pleasant. But these images could not have been captured without a preexisting trust. I am reminded of the way Jock Sturges operates: he observes his environment until he notices a moment of sublime beauty and then tries to capture it. It may seem odd to compare these two artists because of the startling impact of Sturges’ nudes, but as far as method is concerned, they are sympathetic brothers under the skin. The shots are posed and yet they are also quite natural—not hiding personalities behind awkward body language. To accentuate Jókay’s feeling for these young people, he uses muted—even unfocused—backgrounds and is careful not to have any distracting stark elements in the image like sharp shadows or solid blue patches of sky.

[Zoltán Jókay - Growing Up #13 (c2000) and Zoltán Jókay - Growing Up #17 (c2000) removed at artist's request]

Two series are of interest for this site: “Growing Up” and “Remembering”. Fran Lebowitz says that artists who deal exclusively with youthful subjects can only get worse over time (she was using F. Scott Fitzgerald as an example). Although this does not bode well for Pigtails in Paint as an artistic enterprise, I think it is essentially true. Sally Mann, Polixeni Papapetrou and Pere Formiguera are three artists that come immediately to mind who—in their personal development—went on to explore the subjects of aging and death. Jókay has done something similar and has progressed to an examination of the psychological states of illness in his work, especially that of dementia. You can see more from these two series and other projects on his website here.

Invitation to the Bath: Rita Martin

In the early days of photography, a sure way to fame would be to: shoot important sitters and have them exhibited at important venues or have your work consistently reproduced on postcards. Many, like Reutlinger, did both but the child studies of Rita Martin are perhaps the most charming in existence. With a somewhat common name like this, it was difficult to find correct biographical information until an associate who is an avid collector provided it and most of the scans for this post. I want to thank WCL for his contribution and hope to see more of his collection on Pigtails in the future.

Both Margareta “Rita” Martin (1875-1958) and her elder sister Lallie Charles recognized the commercial potential of photography after being employed by Alice Hughes. In the London of the 1890s, Hughes was the leading society photographer and at its height, had a large staff of exclusively women running her operation. When Charles decided to open her own studio in 1897, Martin joined her to help. She opened her own studio in 1906 following the Hughes formula: photographing subjects in pale colors against a pure white background and avoiding men and boys over a certain age. It was Hughes’ contention that men’s apparel was unattractive and not visually engaging to photograph. Martin focused her efforts on actresses such as Lily Elsie and Lily Brayton and child studies—particularly of Gladys Cooper’s two children. However, her most reproduced child studies were of the Luke children—whose father, a carpenter, was responsible for building her second studio. Martin‭ ‬had photographed royalty including Queen Elizabeth as well as the current Queen Mother as a child. Martin’s and Charles’ few surviving negatives were presented to the National Portrait Gallery by their niece Lallie Charles Martin in 1994.

Even Martin’s “conventional” child portraits were distinctive as she took pains to include the subject’s hands creating a somewhat bashful appearance. A couple of these images were published in Graham Ovenden’s Victorian Children.

Rita Martin - (untitled) (c1910) (1)

Rita Martin – (untitled) (c1910) (1)

Martin’s child subjects were usually accompanied by some kind of prop like a sofa,‭ ‬bathtub‭ ‬or other whimsical scene.‭ Consistent with Victorian attitudes about the innocence of children, they were shot in various ‬stages of undress. The artist usually refrained from giving her work titles as postcard producers would likely attach their own phrases to punch up their appeal anyway. Many images saw multiple releases in various forms—including some colorized and some in sepia—making dating difficult. The first postcards featured are of the same girl model preparing for and taking a bath. There are several that belong to this series. ‭The first is a colorized version and has the title “Why Don’t They Bring My Frock?”‭

Rita Martin - (untitled) (c1910) (2)

Rita Martin – (untitled) (c1910) (2)

‭In the next two images, the sponge seems to make the scenes more sensuous. The first has seen many titles including “Oh! It’s Cold”, “The Order of the Bath” and “A Sponge Down”.‭

Rita Martin - (untitled) (c1910) (3)

Rita Martin – (untitled) (c1910) (3)

‭This image has the title “A Cooler”.‭

Rita Martin - (untitled) (c1910) (4)

Rita Martin – (untitled) (c1910) (4)

This postcard features two lovely girls,‭ ‬in minimal dress under an umbrella.‭ ‬The quote at the bottom states,‭ “‬Let’s go back dear,‭ ‬there’s a man‭”‬.

Rita Martin - (untitled) (c1910) (5)

Rita Martin – (untitled) (c1910) (5)

This lovely girl stands behind a set of bars with a well-placed bouquet.‭ ‬The first has the title ‭“‬Behind the Screen‭” and the sec‬ond is titled simply “Shy”. Martin’s work even caught the attention of postcard makers in Germany and these two were printed in Berlin.‭

Rita Martin - (untitled) (c1910) (6)

Rita Martin – (untitled) (c1910) (6)

Rita Martin - (untitled) (c1910) (7)

Rita Martin – (untitled) (c1910) (7)

One of WCL’s favorites is entitled‭ “‬Back Numbers‭” fea‬turing three bare butt children sitting together on a railing from behind.‭ ‬This one features a rare appearance by a boy and has a 1914‭ postmark from ‬a French address.

Rita Martin - (untitled) (c1910) (8)

Rita Martin – (untitled) (c1910) (8)

“Everybody Loves Me,‭ ‬I’m the Baby‭” ‬is the title of this postcard and it has a companion called ‭“‬Nobody Loves Me‭” (not shown here)‬.‭

Rita Martin - (untitled) (c1910) (9)

Rita Martin – (untitled) (c1910) (9)

Here two darling girls embrace for a heavenly pose.‭ ‬The postcard features a quote from Pollock, “Living jewels dropp’d unstained from Heaven” and ‭“‬jewels‭” were ‬added for effect.

Rita Martin - (untitled) (c1910) (10)

Rita Martin – (untitled) (c1910) (10)

Or the quote can be a light-hearted greeting as in this birthday card.

Rita Martin - (untitled) (c1910) (11)

Rita Martin – (untitled) (c1910) (11)

Finally there is‭ “‬Babes in the Wood‭”‬,‭ with a ‬1907‭ postmark ‬from a French address.‭ ‬These seem to be the same two models from the earlier umbrella shot.‭‭

Rita Martin - (untitled) (c1910) (12)

Rita Martin – (untitled) (c1910) (12)

WCL is always adding to his collection, so if you have anything interesting you would like to share, you can reach him through this site.

The models are supposedly the children of famous people (or of the Luke family), but they are not specifically identified on each of these images. It would be appreciated if someone—especially in the vicinity of the National Portrait Gallery in London—could offer more information. For those who have not attempted visiting an archive before, an appointment is usually necessary to examine the relevant materials. In this case, small sets can be retrieved in advance focusing on specific models. The photographs at NPG are stored together according to sitter—not artist—which suggests that at least the names of the models might be known. I have also been informed that they have a box filled with many photocopies of magazine pages where Martin’s work was published. Anyone interested in doing a little leg work can contact this site and get specific contact information to get started.

Breaking the Ice: Michael Otto

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to purchase some photographs that were part of a reserve used for publication in naturist magazines in the 1980s. Properly, naturist photography is classified as photojournalism and not art. But because of the subject matter, oftentimes an image strikes a chord—accidental art, if you will. I noticed some photographers seem to have a knack for capturing the charm of childhood and I was introduced for the first time to names like Leif Heilberg, Iris Bancroft and Michael Otto.

Michael Otto - (untitled) (1982) (1)

Michael Otto – (untitled) (1982) (1)

Later, when researching Lotte Herrlich (post forthcoming) for this site, I found a short biography (in German) written by Michael Otto and was delighted to discover an account of his childhood and how he became a naturist. Except for those born into that culture, I think many of us are curious how one becomes interested and then involved in such a group. The most uplifting thing about Otto’s story is that it is so playful which I think captures the true spirit of the practice. And by coincidence, I happened to be reading Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul by Stuart Brown, MD and Christopher Vaughan which helped frame in my mind the sincere intent of these people.

Michael Otto - (untitled) (1982) (2)

Michael Otto – (untitled) (1982) (2)

Michael Otto was born in 1959 in Hamburg, Germany. Before telling his tale, he advises the reader that there is no single path to nudism and each person must find his own way and have a genuine desire to be naked with no ulterior sexual motives. Some people seem to need a little nudge, but that is easy once they see how beautiful and pleasant nudity can be.

Michael Otto - (untitled) (c1985) (1)

Michael Otto – (untitled) (c1985) (1)

He remembers taking an interest in being naked and in being around other naked people in 1969 (at age 10). At that time, there was no internet, so a child’s routine was typically school then homework then outside to play. He, his best friend and the other neighborhood boys would usually play soccer, but when girls were around, they had to play something else. A favorite pastime was “Spin the Bottle” and, in the beginning, the rules seemed harmless enough. If the bottleneck pointed to someone, that person would have to do a somersault or a handstand or some other benign “dare”. However, at some point, the girls came up with the idea that the person would have to take off an article of clothing. In due course, some player would end up completely naked and then what? They decided the way to raise the stakes would be to have him/her run naked at least 25 meters down the street and back again. The girls were very resourceful, dressing as though it were the dead of winter so the boys were usually naked early in the game and the girls arguing about whether a particular article of clothing counted as one or two garments. Nevertheless, the girls would sometimes reach the point of being completely naked and have to run down the street. Otto felt it was a nice feeling to be naked and to be naked with other children. In a more extreme version of the game, a kid would end up completely naked and have to ride his/her bike around an entire city block! However, given the speed at which they rode their bikes, it seemed that no one had ever noticed and as far as everyone knew, they were just a bunch of well-behaved children. For some, even this escalation was too easy so more innovative and forbidden dares had to be concocted.

Michael Otto - (untitled) (c1985) (2)

Michael Otto – (untitled) (c1985) (2)

The problem for Otto was that since he enjoyed these activities with the other children, he wondered what it all meant and who he could talk to about it—surely not his parents, siblings or teachers. Therefore, this secret pleasure had to stay hidden from others for the time being. The family had a large backyard garden but the neighbor’s was better because it had the advantage of being much larger, L-shaped and included a small shed at the end which could afford some cover. He could enter the garden by climbing the fence, but none of the adults would do that so there would be plenty of warning if someone entered the garden through the gate at the other end. At first, these excursions into the garden naked were an adventure, but after a while, it was boring just wandering the same patch of garden by himself. At some point, the family had to move and the new situation did not allow for any further excursions.

Michael Otto - (untitled) (c1985) (3)

Michael Otto – (untitled) (c1985) (3)

Michael Otto - (untitled) (c1985) (4)

Michael Otto – (untitled) (c1985) (4)

Michael Otto - (untitled) (c1985) (5)

Michael Otto – (untitled) (c1985) (5)

During that time, he had heard of nudism, nudist clubs and nude bathing beaches, but they were unavailable to a child because they were too far away and he would have to ask his parents or siblings, who certainly had more important things to deal with. He realized it would be years before he could fulfill his dream of being naked openly. At age 17, he took an interest in photography and his first camera was a Yashica. After completing school and studying for a profession, he served a short tour in the German Army (Bundeswehr) in 1981. In the course of his training and assignments, he became comfortable and familiar with the city life of Neumünster. It was there that he had another memorable experience with nudity.

One of Otto’s training exercises took him and a small group to the Cologne (Köln) area. The exercise included a three-day endurance and orientation march. They disembarked and after reviewing the proper use of the compass, they set out in the direction of their base camp. It was a warm summer and they were carrying a full backpack and military equipment which weighed much more than they do today. After a few hours, they reached the site, drenched from their profuse sweat and convinced—had there been any real enemy—that their odor would have signaled their presence for miles. After setting up their camp situated near a cool mountain creek, they wasted no time and jumped fully-clothed into the chilly water. Then there was the problem of drying out the uniforms, so they took them off and waited patiently for them to dry stark naked. These were his first hours spent in nature naked and all the men seemed to enjoy the experience—getting into their sleeping bags naked and even performing their guard duty shifts in the buff! It may have seemed silly, but his was the only group that returned without an offending cloud of stench from wearing their uniforms for three days.

After returning to Neumünster, he could not find any nude clubs in the area and he managed as best he could to get a hold of naturist magazines. He decided to go out and find a suitable forest to roam in. He finally found one just north of Einfelder Lake—now a built up area—and screwed up the courage to take off his clothes and explore like a naturist. He visited there many times since. After completing his military service, he returned to Hamburg. There, he could socialize with a consistent group of people he knew and who knew him. He planned a couple nudist vacations (Cap d’Agde in France and Rovinj in Yugoslavia), but as a one-time guest, it was difficult to take full advantage of the social life there. It took him a little while to realize it, but his friends, his “family” in Hamburg were a legitimate naturist group and he had achieved his dream.

Michael Otto - (untitled) (1985) (1)

Michael Otto – (untitled) (1985) (1)

Naturally, he wanted to document this happy time and these wonderful people and thought with his experience as a photojournalist, he could bring his two hobbies together while legitimizing the group to the naturist media. He assumed he would be taking pictures of his adult friends but, as strange as it may seem in today’s political climate, they were reluctant to be photographed and offered their children as subjects instead. It’s really logical if you think about it; children exemplify the free spirit of naturism and parents would be more than happy to have someone capture these treasured memories of their beautiful children. Once Otto got established as the group’s photographer however, adults did begin to participate. Familiar with the nudist (FKK-Freikörperkultur) magazines of the time, he offered some selections for publication and got to see his pictures in print. And today he is still friends with his former models and their parents.

Michael Otto - (untitled) (c1985) (6)

Michael Otto – (untitled) (c1985) (6)

Michael Otto - (untitled) (c1985) (7)

Michael Otto – (untitled) (c1985) (7)

Michael Otto - (untitled) (1982) (3)

Michael Otto – (untitled) (1982) (3)

I am always concerned that with Pigtails’ focus on girls, that readers understand that many of the artists we cover also shot boys and so I include one of Otto’s here.

Michael Otto - (untitled) (1985) (2)

Michael Otto – (untitled) (1985) (2)

There is a lot more to be said about the distinctions between naturist photojournalism and studio “art” photography, but that will have to wait for another time.