Apr 25, 2014

Koloman Moser: The Male Nudity of "Wayfarers"

When I was growing up in Illinois, teachers and professors kept inundating us in Scandinavian culture,  from  Icelandic sagas to the the bawdy Seven Brothers to the dense psychodramas of August Strindburg.  Norwegian literature was my least favorite: Ibsen's A Doll's House and An Enemy of the People, Undset's Happy Times in Norway, Hamsun's Growth of the Soil.  All dark and dreary and over-realistic.

I was drawn to this cover to Knut Hamsun's Wayfarers (Landstrykere, 1927): a hard-muscled guy, naked, striding across the world.  But the stupid story turned out to be about a guy named Edvard who wanders around, living off the land and getting crushes on unsuspecting women.

(Trond Peter Stamsø Munch, top photo, who played Edvard in the 1990 film adaption, also starred in the Disney movie Shipwrecked.)

Ok, so maybe the artist was gay?

He was Koloman Moser (1868-1918), an Austrian artist who specialized in graphic design.  His work is reminiscent of tBritish Decadents like Aubrey Beardsley, with some Art Deco thrown in.

His repertoire contains a lot of female nudes, but also quite a few male nudes.  That walking figure appears again and again, in various poses.

Here a golden boy with a very small penis wins a fight.

The Battle of the Titans from Greek mythology becomes a lot of naked, swaying men throwing rocks at each other.

You even see male nudity in unexpected places, as in this scene of Wotan and Brunhilde from the Ring of the Nibelungs.  Notice how cleverly the god's cloak has been torn away to reveal his sex organs.

Moser didn't marry until he was 37, and his wife turned out to be the wealthy Editha Mautner-Markhof.

The verdict: Impossible to tell if he was gay in real life or not. But he did produce some nicely homoerotic paintings.

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