Anon "John Kilonis" 1928

Anon "'Bullet' Myers" 1928

Anon "Al Karaskick" 1928


Anonymous. "John Kilonis," "'Bullet' Myers," and "Al Karaskick."
'Photographic Album of World's Champion Wrestlers'.
Australia 1928


The First World War caused a huge amount of devastation to the morale and confidence of the male population of Europe and America. Millions of young men were slaughtered on the killing fields of Flanders and Galipolli as the reality of trench warfare set in. Here it did not matter what kind of body a man had - every-body was fodder for the machine guns that constantly ranged the lines of advancing men during an assault. A bullet or nerve gas kills a strong, muscular body just as well as a thin or large body. The war created anxieties and conflicts in men and undermined their confidence and ability to cope in the world after peace came. During the war images of men were used to reinforce the patriotic message of fighting for your country. After the war the Surrealist movement made use of photography of the body to depict the dreams, deprivations and abuse that men were suffering as a result of it. To reinforce the message of the strong, omnipotent male images of muscular bodies were again used to shore up traditional 'masculine' values. They were used to advertise sporting events such as boxing and wrestling matches and sporting heroes appeared on cigarette cards emphasising skills and achievements (such as those used on the Index page). These images and events ensured that masculinity was kept at the forefront of human endeavour and social cognisance.


Anon "The Ball Throwers" c.1925

"The Ball Throwers."
Army Training.



After the devastation of The First World War, the 1920's saw the development in Germany, America and England of the cult of 'nature worship' - a love of the outdoors, the sun and the naturalness of the body that would eventually lead to the formation of the nudist movement. This movement was exploited by governments and integrated into the training regimes of their armies in the search for a fitter more professional soldier. But the nudity aspect was frowned upon because of its homoerotic overtones - Hitler banned all naturist clubs in Germany in 1933 and the obvious eroticism of training in the nude would not have been overlooked. Physical training had been introduced into the armies and navies of the Western world at the end of the 19th century and as the new century progressed physical fitness was seen as an integral part of the discipline and efficiency of such bodies. As fascist states started to emerge during the latter half of the 1920's and the beginning of the 1930's they started making use of the muscular male body as a symbol of physical perfection.



Josef Thorak "Comradeship" 1937

Josef Thorak.

Propaganda became a major tool of the state. During the decade leading up to the Second World War and during the war itself images of the body were used to help support the policies of the government, to encourage enlistment and bolster the morale of soldiers and public. Images appealed to the patriotic nature of the population but could still include suspicions of homo-erotic activity, such as in this (probably Russian) poster, at right, from 1935.

Here comradeship should not be confused with friendship which was discussed at the beginning of this section.



The idealised muscularity of the body was used by the state to encourage its aims. The use of classical images of muscular bodies reflected a nostalgia for the past and an appeal to nationalism. Heroic statues were recreated in stadiums in Italy and Germany, symbols that represented the power, strength and virility of the state and its leaders. In a totalitarian regime the body becomes the property of the state, and is used as a tool in collusion with the state's moral and political agendas.


Anon "Untitled" 1935

Propaganda poster.