The German photo-illustrated magazine UHU, launched in 1924, was known for its risqué photography of the female nude. These photos offered, however, more than mere titillation: images of pastoral nudes, and of naked dancers, were a sublime expression of UHU’s cult of youth and physicality and of visual beauty in the natural and manmade world. Significantly, the magazine’s eclectic visual culture—which also embraced images of male gymnastics and of children—inflected the ideological conflicts that centered on the unclothed body in this period. The article describes how contrasting ideas of the body, and of social order, are symbolically expressed in poses and pictorial settings. In particular, the grouping of figures, in geometric and informal “human patterns,” speaks to a fundamental dichotomy in Weimar modernism: the divide between machine-based (rationalist) ideologies and “spiritualized” visions of an organic social order. UHU’s sunbathers and expressive dancers embodied the dynamic tensions of the new technological society—tensions that would resolve, with drastic consequences, in the following decade.

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