Frühlingsweben                  Zeichnung von Ernst H. Graeser


Ernst Heinrich Graeser (1884-1944), der jüngste der drei Gräserbrüder, studierte Malerei in München und Stuttgart. Zwischen 1903 und1911 lebte er immer wieder, für länger oder kürzer, bei seinen Brüdern auf dem Monte Verità von Ascona. Im Winter 1906/7 machte er in Locarno eine Ausstellungseiner Gemälde. Zu den Käufern seiner Bilder zählte auch Hermann Hesse. Ernst Heinrich, der später ein Anhänger von Rudolf Steiner wurde, stand damals unterdem Einfluss von Karl und Gusto. Dies belegen u. a. die Erinnerungen des ehemaligen Erzherzogs Leopold von Toskana, später Leopold Wölfling genannt, derselbst zeitweise ein „Naturmensch“ bei den Gräsers in Ascona gewesen war. Wölfling nennt die Gräsers in seinem Buch nicht beim Namen, er nennt sie„Vögel“, wohl in Anlehnung an „Wandervögel“. Nach den beiden „Vögeln“ Karl und Gusto ist für ihn Ernst „Vögel the Third“. Ernst Heinrich Graeser (1884-1944), the youngest of the three Gräser brothers, studied painting in Munich and Stuttgart. Between 1903 and 1911 he repeatedly lived, for longer or shorter periods, with his brothers on Monte Verità in Ascona. In the winter of 1906/7 he held an exhibition of his paintings in Locarno. Hermann Hesse was one of the buyers of his paintings. Ernst Heinrich, who later became a follower of Rudolf Steiner, was then under the influence of Karl and Gusto. This is evidenced by the memoirs of the former Archduke Leopold of Tuscany, later called Leopold Wölfling, who himself had been a "nature person" at times with the Gräsers in Ascona. Wölfling does not call the Gräsers by name in his book, he calls them "Vögel" (birds), probably in reference to "Wandervögel" (migratory birds or rather excursionists). After the two "birds" Karl and Gusto, Ernst is for him "Vögel the Third".


Vögel the Third

by Leopold Wölfling

To rid the world of sex! This had been the battle cry of each Vögel [Gräser] in turn. But as I listened to its exposition by Vögel the Third [Ernst Gräser], I was considerably more impressed by the possible sanity of this back-to-natue creed than when its tenets were shrieked at me in the hysterical vaporings of his unbalanced brothers and sister-in-law.


According to this bright young man, the most Beautiful Thing in life, if rightly understood, was Sex. But through the degeneracy and perversion of modern civilized ideas, this Beautiful Thing had been degraded until its Beauty was no longer recognizable. It throve as a festering canker in the lives of men and women.

Our young friend held that clothes were an abomination because they created in us an unhealthy curiosity and element of mystery which resulted in the morbid perversion of our natural sex instincts. (193) …


„What is more beautiful than the nude human form?“ argued Vögel the Third. „Take those old-lady Philistines of the past who, driven by moral indignation to wrap their shawls round what they conceived to be indecent statues of nude figures. What was the result of the so-called pious act? Merely to increase the evil of lasciviousness which they  thought to hide. At Ascona we believe clothing to be a fetish wich destroys healthy human passion, degrading it to vice.“


To me this seemed rather a good line of talk, and the young man gradually interested me more and more in his theories. I found this companionship so stimulating that I was quite sorry when, after making himself a very unobtrusive member of our household for nearly a moth, he returned to Ascona. …


Somehow I bamboozled myself into the belief that this back-to-nature cult also included serious thinkers like Vögel the Third, and if these more sanely-balanced members of the colony were really in earnest, I began to feel that it would be a highly diverting adventure to live among them for a while and observe at first-hand how their no-clothes experiment worked out. (194).


Of the Moonlight Revels, I was, of course, a distinctly interested spectator, for I felt that I could now test how far the theories on Sex, so eloquently propounded by Vögel the Third, were sound. What this apparently earnest student of the problem had said in affect was that sex evils would vanish if men and women could but grow accustomed to looking on one another naked without feeling ashamed.


„Why, if confronted by an unknown male, should a naked woman at once feel guilty and seek to cover herself up, if not to run away and hide?“ had been one of the conundrums this young man had thrust at me, and he had laughed me to scorn when for answer I said: „ A woman in such circumstances seeks to hide herself from a man for the same reason as she screams in terror whenever she sees a mouse. A self-protective instinct, given to her at the Creation, compels her to act in this way.“ (201)


„How do you know what Woman felt towards Man at the Creation?“ he had scoffed. “I contend that her self-protective instinct, as you call it, was not with her at the start, but has been imposed on her by a trick of the devil in inducing her to wear clothes. This so-called instinct would never have been if only through the ages men and women had faced each other fairly and squarely in a state of simple nature rather than with covered bodies in mock modesty and shame.“


Here, then, at these Moonlight Revels I could now see if this strange theorist were right. Alas! As I looked on, I could only decide that he was most hopelessly wrong. To the strains of reed-like gipsy music, borrowed from Hungary and not with a certain allure itself, never had I seen so unalluring a sight as this set of thin-limbed men and knock-kneed women, now gyrating about this open field stark naked in the moonlight. They imagined that they danced, but truly, there was neither rhythm nor reason about their dancing at all. They contorted themselves this way and that. Their gestures, far from being beautiful, seemed ugly, formless, and insane. (201)


My ultimate conclusion about this mad spectacle was that, let Vögel the Third argue as he would, this uncovering of the human body by no means made for Sex-innocence. I admit that through having lived together in the nude, cheek by jowl, for so long, these strange human madcaps seemed now able to look on one another without the slightest Sex-thrill. But since many of them wore spectacles and pince-nez, even though they were undressed, what else could you expect?


Still, here and there, one caught glimpses of human forms less anaemic in energy because they were more athletic in build. But what young Vögel mistook in the latter for Sex-innocence was in reality Sex-apathy, a state contrary to Nature, which inflicts terrible punishment on all who fall into it. Never shall I forget the lustreless eyes with which these more vigorous men and women of this back-to-nature colony regarded one another as, uttering silly, raucous cries, they capered about in the moonlight. In their efforts to get back to Nature, they had run away from her altogether.


To me, the most repellent part of their capers was that each one of the caperers seemed to enjoy himself best when capering alone. Each seemed to like best to indulge in solo dances. Each appeared positively to recoil from touching another. Comradeship or any other human feeling between these people, apart from spleen and jealousy, was dead. Their state of nudity had killed it. In a word, they were megalomaniacs. Instead of living for each other, they lived simply for themselves. (202)


After a week of sheer misery at the back-to-nature colony I returned with my wife to Zug. (204)

 Aus Leopold Wölfling: My Life Story. From Archduke to Grocer. New York 1931

Ernst Heinrich Graeser