Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration #18


Continuing the delve into back numbers of Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration, the German periodical of art and decoration. There’s yet another frustrating jump in the numbers here, from volume 16 to volume 18 which covers the period from April to September 1906. Inside there’s more rectilinear interior design from the Wiener Werkstätte (above) as well as a great deal of less interesting interior design from elsewhere. The most notable feature of this edition is the article on the illustration work of Marcus Behmer, a member of Adolf Brand’s pioneering gay rights circle in Berlin whose drawings from this volume were featured in an earlier post.

As usual, anyone wishing to see these samples in greater detail is advised to download the entire number at the Internet Archive. There’ll be more DK&D next week.



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Le Baiser de Narcisse


We have the French gay culture site Bibliothèque Gay to thank for posting illustrations by Ernest Brisset from Jacques d’Adelswärd-Fersen’s rare volume of homoerotic fiction, Le baiser de Narcisse (The Kiss of Narcissus). The book was originally published in 1907 but it was a new edition in 1912 which came embellished with Brisset’s Classical drawings and decorations. If these lack a degree of eros it should be noted that the text would have been condemned as outright pornography in the Britain of 1912, a paean to youthful male beauty which lingers over details of a boy’s “polished hips” and his “round and firm sex like a fruit”. As is usual with homoerotics of this period, the Classical setting and allusion to Greek myth provides the vaguest excuse for the subtext even though prudes of the time weren’t remotely fooled by this, as Oscar Wilde discovered.


Among other works by Fersen there’s a decadent roman à clef, Lord Lyllian: Black Masses (1905), which I’ve been intent on reading since it was translated into English a couple of years ago. Here Fersen provides us with yet another fictional extrapolation of Oscar Wilde who the author gifts with some of his own scandalous history. Fersen had been driven from France following a public outrage involving the “Black Masses” of the novel’s title, and the alleged debauching of Parisian schoolboys.


Nino Cesarini by Paul Höcker (1904).

Fersen settled in Capri with his partner Nino Cesarini where they spent some years reinforcing the reputation of that island (not for nothing is Noël Coward’s camp and catty character in Boom! named “the Witch of Capri”), and proselytising for the Uranian cause with a literary journal, Akademos, modelled on Adolf Brand’s Der Eigene. Fersen’s later life is reminiscent of that of Elisar von Kupffer, a wealthy contemporary who created a secluded homoerotic paradise of his own, the Sanctuarium Artis Elisarion. Unlike Kupffer, however, Fersen ended his days prematurely in a haze of opium and cocaine. As for Ernest Brisset, if anyone finds other work of his online, please leave a comment.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The gay artists archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Reflections of Narcissus

The art of Marcus Behmer, 1879–1958


Salomé: Der Wunsch.

Back in March I wrote something about Alex Koch’s art periodical, Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration, a guide to German arts, crafts and architecture founded in Darmstadt in 1897. The Internet Archive has a nearly complete run of these and I’ve recently been working my way through their scans, a process which takes a while as there’s more than 10,000 pages to be looked at. When I find the time I’ll be posting some of the finds from this wonderful publication, the early issues of which are devoted to the best examples of the Art Nouveau style in Germany and elsewhere.


Salomé: Die Erfüllung.

For now, however, I can’t resist posting these pictures from volume 18 (April–Spetember 1906) which form part of a feature about German illustrator Marcus Behmer. I’ve only seen one or two of Behmer’s drawings before and they didn’t really show him at his best. What’s immediately apparent is the great debt his work owed at this point to Aubrey Beardsley, right down to the treatment of foliage and a deliberately grotesque approach to character. It’s also good to find another treatment of the Salomé theme in black-and-white, and the pictures here are credited as being based on Wilde’s play.


Salomé: Das Opfer.

Wikipedia has a page about the artist but it’s all in German, unfortunately, so a crude translation has to suffice. As with Beardsley, the grotesquerie extended to the sexual sphere and it would be nice to know more about the byways of Behmer’s career if only to see where his curious erotic drawings pieces come from. Wikipedia notes that “Behmer was already since 1903 member in the first homosexual organization of the world in Berlin” so I assume that means he was part of Adolf Brand’s circle, and may have contributed to Brand’s publication Der Eigene. A few examples of the erotic work can be found here and here. Further examples from Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration follow.
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Der Eigene: Kultur und Homosexualität


Der Eigene, collected edition, 1906. Design credited to Adolf Brand.

The subtitle is from an article (see below); Der Eigene, the world’s first homosexual periodical was devoted to an ideal of “masculine culture” which looked to Ancient Greece for a model of same-sex relationships. Adolf Brand (“Editor, photographer, poet, polemicist, activist, anarchist, enfant terrible“) founded Der Eigene in Berlin 1896, and to give some idea of how advanced the Germans were in these matters, consider that not only was this a year after Oscar Wilde had been imprisoned in Britain but that Brand’s publication was only the first of several journals advocating gay rights at a time when homosexual acts were still illegal in Germany. The radicalism fell short of including women, unfortunately; like many Grecophile pioneers of the time, Brand’s world had no place for females. All this activity was part of a peculiar ferment in Germany around 1900 which saw the rise of many small groups devoted to naturism, Theosophy, occultism in general, and various pagan revivals. There were also plenty of fiercely nationalist factions, of course, and these took a dim view of Brand’s outspoken homo-anarchism. When the nationalists later turned into the Nazis they destroyed Germany’s nascent gay culture.


Morgendämmerung (Dawn) by Sascha Schneider, 1897. This drawing also appeared in Jugend magazine the same year.

The pictures here are from sets at Wikimedia Commons where the section devoted to the magazine has finally been amended with some higher-resolution copies. It’s a shame there isn’t more to see given that Der Eigene ran until 1932. I’ll be hoping for further works to come to light as the digitisation of rare publications gathers pace.


Der Eigene, November, 1920.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The gay artists archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Sanctuarium Artis Elisarion
Jugend Magazine revisited
The art of Sascha Schneider, 1870–1927
Hadrian and Greek love

The art of Sascha Schneider, 1870–1927


I first came across Sascha Schneider’s art some years ago when reading about German writer Karl May (1842–1912), and it was as May’s illustrator that Schneider initially gained recognition. May was one of Germany’s most popular novelists, his Western adventures about Old Shatterhand and Winnetou the Warrior sold millions of copies and numbered Albert Einstein and Adolf Hitler among their enthusiasts. Schneider’s work struck me as unusual compared to other illustrators of the period; there was a curious quality which seemed to owe more to Symbolist painting than book illustration and the few examples I saw were distinctly homoerotic at a time when homosexuality was regarded with suspicion or downright hostility. Sure enough it turns out that Schneider was openly gay and that May had no problem with this. It also transpires that the Symbolist tone which seemed so unsuited to a writer of Western pulp fiction complemented the content of some of May’s later works which weren’t Westerns at all but were Orientalist fantasies with a metaphysical inclination. The publisher wasn’t too happy with the ambivalent nature of these pictures, however, and they were replaced in later editions.


For once I don’t have to complain about a lack of website examples, Schneider’s connections with May have at least ensured his work is still being written about even if it seems overlooked by gay art histories. This latter circumstance is unusual since he was a contributor to Der Eigene, the world’s first gay periodical, founded by Adolf Brand in 1896.

I’ve taken the liberty of posting more samples than usual here and you’ll have to forgive the lack of information about titles and dates. Many of the pictures are quite bizarre for the way they’re continually juxtaposing naked figures with angels, demons or monsters. Even the Winnetou illustrations, which should be depicting Native Americans, look more suited to the wall of a salon in fin de siècle Paris than stories of the Wild West. Links to various galleries follow.

Schneider’s Karl May frontispieces
An extensive Russian gallery
A smaller Schneider gallery

Continue reading “The art of Sascha Schneider, 1870–1927”