New Look, Thanks to Long-Dead German Artist(s)
Doug Hickok, NEFRL Director
Did you notice a new graphic at the top of the newsletter? How
about the one on the NEFRL website
Back in January, about the time I was revamping the NEF library
website for the bright and cheery new year, I struck upon a good
idea. The new website, as I'm sure you've noticed, is quite
boring! There are too many tasks for us volunteers to do, and
making things "pretty" falls fairly low in the list of priorities.
Besides, this day and age, it's pretty difficult to find nice
graphics that you know for sure you can use. Searching public
domain photos can be hit or miss, usually since the search results
don't specify why it's public domain or where it came from. How
can we verify it's legitimate? Even stock photography sites are
full of stolen images that the thieves are trying to make a buck
on. As a library, copyright is pretty important to us and we do
our best to adhere to it.
We have a nudist library with tons of content. My idea was to
source our own graphics from our library which have become "public
domain". On January 1st, 2020, all works published in America
from 1924 and older are considered to be in the public domain, which
grants us permission for any kind of modification and use.
Made in America
Before my January visit to the NEF library, I created a list of
magazines that are 1924 and older. I was rather
disappointed. Naturism didn't really arrive in the US until the
1930's, so the only American magazines in the list were early issues
of Physical Culture. Paging through those, there were
absolutely no graphics I thought were worthwhile for naturist library
use. Physical Culture, which became a pretty respectable
naturist magazine, wasn't yet showing nudity in the early 1920's.
As a last resort, I cruised the books we have, looking for any
American publications that fit the date range. There, too, I
came up empty-handed. Lots of old books, but none from America
that would be useful.
Made in Germany
The graphics I had in mind are all over the really old German
magazines like Die Schönheit, Kraft und Schönheit, and
Die Kultur, but I didn't know much about German copyright
law. So I pulled up a chair and did some reading over
lunch. That's where things got complicated.
German copyright law says that copyrighted items become public
domain 70 years after the copyright-holder's death. Of course,
you need to know who the copyright holder is, and when they passed.
This sounds easy, but keep in mind we're trying to track down people
from 70+ years ago who may not be famous at all.
To complicate things more, a magazine publication is usually
considered a derivative work. The magazine publisher claims
copyright on the layout, the article author claims copyright on their
words, and an artist claims copyright on their artwork. Since I
was only interested in the artwork, the listed authors and the
publisher's layout (and publication year) aren't relevant. The
magazine could be from any date. But just because the
publication was done in 1902 doesn't mean it's public domain. If
an artist did some artwork for that 1902 magazine when they were 18,
and lived to be 70, it means it won't be public domain for another 4
years from now...which is 122 years after publication.
I cruised the German titles in search of some graphics that I liked
-- the ones I had in mind originally. Quite a few of the
graphics either didn't have a signature, or had some cryptic initials
that were probably identifiable by name 100 years ago. It's sad
that many of these wonderful artists simply aren't identifiable
Mystery signature on a graphic I'd like to use - anyone know for
sure who this is?
Not only does NEF have several German magazines with his artwork,
but we have an entire book with his biography (in German) and many
pages of his faithfully-reproduced artwork. Despite this book
being published in 1972, the artwork from Fidus is considered public
domain as long as we only copy out the artwork and nothing else on the
Book cover. (Fair Use.)
That doesn't mean the graphics from us are public domain.
Just like the magazine publishers laying out a page of content, NEF is
creating a derivative work. I've been processing them in
numerous ways to get the look I want. The Pages of History logo
is cleaned up quite a bit from the original, and our text is
added. The graphic on the NEFRL website is cleaned up too, but
also stretched to be wider and a third figure has been removed, before
adding the NEFRL wording. In the hands of a decent graphic
artist, who knows what interesting remixes they could come up
with. We at least have some material we can use to start with.
I stumbled on a second discovery while thumbing through the Fidus
book. Does this artwork remind you of anything you've seen
Putting kids on leashes is still pretty normal in Germany, and
pretty smart if you think about it.
It's one of a four-part set, each titled Spring, Summer, Fall, and
Winter. You can view the complete set at the Worthpoint site
. This image is
"Spring". The one used by The Naturist Society for at least the
last 15 years is titled "Summer". How they got permission to use
this graphic commercially from a deceased German is anyone's guess,
but it's possible that Lee Baxandall tracked down the family.
Either way, the work is officially public domain as-of 2018.
More About Fidus
Hogo Höppener (Fidus) studied the Art Nouveau style, along with
other styles, under K. W. Diefenbach
. (You can see the
similarity between the silhouettes mentioned above and these by Diefenbach
.) It's interesting
that Diefenbach ran a commune for a few years (1895-1898) that
practiced naturism and living in harmony with nature, among other
concepts. Since Diefenbach was laid to rest in 1913, his works
would all be considered public domain as well.
According to the book "Body, Femininity and Nationalism: Girls in
the German Youth Movement 1900-1934", the author states the following
"[Fidus] was not only a painter and draughtsman but also a prophet
and a 'priest'. He preached in words and images the pure love
between man and a woman, their merging, the unity of body and soul,
the German Gottglauben [believing in God], the unity of nature and
culture, the rejection of civilization, intellect, industry, and the
urban. Fidus wasn't particularly in demand in modern artistic
circles. Generally they found his art appalling, and his
messages tasteless. The life-reforming ideals which he had
followed found more approval in the youth movement."
Fidus and his art were very much in demand for magazines associated
with the youth movement, and concepts like body culture and nudism
came from that movement. His art can be seen in numerous
naturist publications spanning from about 1900 to 1930, and some even
dedicated special issues to him or carried his writings.
A second wave of popularity happened in the 1960's. Fidus was
an inspiration to a whole generation of hippie culture and their
artwork. The article from Hippy.com
mentions him as "perhaps
the greatest psychedelic artist ever, pre-dating the 1960's
multi-colored posters and albums by over a half century". (This
article also includes a photo of both Fidus and Diefenbach from 1887,
which is interesting itself.)
We appreciate your art, Fidus, and we thank you for all the
wonderful work you've done.
Doug Hickok, NEFRL Director
If you've been in the mood to go streaking
, but didn't have
the tunes to play while you're on the run, we're here to help!
The second batch of vinyl records has been digitized and are
available for "digital lending" to library members. This batch
contained all 42 of the songs we have on streaking, covering most
genres including rock, pop, R&B, calypso, funk, country, hustle,
and even a polka.
NEF would like to sincerely thank the person we hired to digitize
all of the vinyl records and cassette tapes for us. He isn't a
naturist (yet), but did mention an unexplained urge to go streaking
after hearing 42 songs in a row on the subject. Beyond that, he
was genuinely impressed that so many artists cared enough to create
all those songs about both skinny dipping and streaking. As a
musician himself, he said the history we have is certainly
Sadly, I can't claim that "All" of our music has been digitized
yet. There is one pesky record that requires a French Pathé
record player, and those are hard to come by these days!