23 September 2020

Nude Magazines from La Belle Époque

Category: History   Tags: Erotic Photography / Jean Agélou
Nude Magazines from La Belle Époque - Black & White Photography and Stereoscopy Blog

Nude photography was widespread in France in the beginning of the 20th century. Postcards and stereoviews of nude models were readily available. The government tolerated these images as long as they were not obscene and did not disturb public order.

Several nude magazines appeared in a short time, but what was tolerated by the government and what wasn't acceptable, was not clearly defined by law. Photographers and publishers had to act discreetly to prevent being prosecuted if the invisible line was crossed. Photographers rarely signed their photos with their own name and they used different initials to reduce the risk of prosecution. Magazines were "disguised" as artistic publications, intended for artists who could use the images to study the human body.

L'Étude Académique

L'Étude Académique - nude magazine
Cover of L'Étude Académique from 15 May 1904

One of the most well known nude magazines was L'Étude Académique (The Academic Study). This subscriber magazine was published twice a month by Librairie d'Art Technique from 1904 until the outbreak of World War I in 1914. The title suggests that it was intended as study material for artists, but the magazine had 20.000 subscribers. It may be clear that not all subscribers were painters and sculptors...

The magazine was founded by Amédée Vignola, a French cartoonist and caricaturist. He published several other erotic publications such as Mes Modèles and Le Document Photographique.

Jean Agélou was associated with the magazine as a photographer from 1905 and his photos were usually signed with his inverted initials A.J. Another photographer of the magazine was the German photographer S. Recknagel. He was one of the few photographers who signed with his own name as he could not be prosecuted in Germany by the French government if images were considered inappropriate.

L'Étude Académique - nude magazine
L'Étude Académique from 15 July 1914

Each magazine features an introduction and nude models in different poses, mainly females but also male models. In addition to the photographer's initials, the age of the model was listed below the photos. From 1908, nude photography in publications was further restricted by the French government. From that moment on, genitals were covered or retouched by post processing the images.

A yearbook with models from the magazine was published with the name Almanach des Beaux Arts, supplement annuel de L'Étude Académique.

Le Stéréo-Nu

Le Stéréo-Nu - nude magazine
Cover of Le Stéréo-Nu from 15 June 1907

Le Stéréo-Nu was a magazine with stereoviews of nude models. It was issued to subscribers twice a month by Librairie d'Art Technique. It first appeared in 1906 and editions were published at least until 1909.

This magazine also focussed on the artistic aspects to make nude photography acceptable. The subtitle of the publication is: Album artistique d'Étude Académiques a l'usage des Peintres & Sculpteurs (Artistic Album of Academic Study for Painters & Sculptors). Jean Agélou was also a photographer for this magazine.

Each edition contained twelve 9 x 16cm stereoviews in black and white that were printed on six glossy paper sheets. The stereoviews could be cut out for viewing in a stereoscope. A year's subscription cost 12 francs. The subscription included a simple stereoscope for 85 cents extra. The cut out stereoviews are widely offered on online auction sites today, but complete editions of Le Stéréo-Nu are more rare to find.

Le Stéréo-Nu - nude magazine
Le Stéréo-Nu from 15 June 1907

Le Stéréo-Nu advertisement in Almanach des Beaux Arts from 1909

Le Document Photographique

Le Document Photographique - Vignola - nude magazine
Le Document Photographique from 15 June 1906

Le Document Photographique was another publication by Amédée Vignola. It also appeared bi-monthly from 1906. It's actually not a magazine but a portfolio of photographs. Each edition contained 10 warm toned photographs of c.12 x 20cm, mounted on gray cardboard. Le Document Photographique was a more exclusive publication, probably intended for collectors.

Le Document Photographique - Vignola - nude magazine
Le Document Photographique from 15 June 1906

References:

  • Jean Agélou - De l'académisme à la photographie de charme, Christian Bourdon, 2006