ZE SBÍRKY SKUPINY PPF
JOSEF SUDEK
JAN SVOBODA
COMPARISON II
1. 7.—30. 8. 2015

‘And that was the beginning of an odd relationship, because we couldn’t become friends. I was afraid of him, and he was much older than me. It shocked him that I knew so much about him and his work. And I asked him very tricky questions. He used to say, “Don’t even ask me about things like that. Remember, curiosity killed the cat“.’ Jan Svoboda, interviewed by Liba Taylor, British Journal of Photography, 18 June 1982, pp. 646–49.

I must admit that I was actually led to this exhibition by laziness and self-centredness. When I was approached to take the traditional ‘Sudekian’ summer slot at the Sudek Studio, my thoughts turned to Sudek chiefly in the role of the photographer emulated by Jan Svoboda. I wanted to test Sudek’s work in comparison with Svoboda’s anyway, except, unfortunately, that had already been done long ago by others. It therefore seems most suitable simply to recall this comparison.

When, in 1983, after a mutually acceptable agreement (and after twenty years of increasing problems and fatigue) he quit his job as a photographer at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague, Svoboda received a special award (considering that he was basically just a technician there): the museum organized an exhibition for him at the affiliated Roudnice Art Gallery (in the town of Roudnice nad Labem). It was a comparative exhibition with his life-long model, an event that in fact officially crowned Svoboda as Sudek’s successor. This friendly dismissal with official honours was an expression of Svoboda’s dual role at the museum and in the field of Czech art: on the one hand, a tolerated stubborn bohemian, on the other, a lamentable obscure genius.

The earlier exhibition, Sudek/Svoboda: A Comparison I, was organized by Zdeněk Kirschner, who at the time was Curator of Photography at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague. This untraditionally comparative installation, typographically conceived and using metal rods, was designed by Svoboda’s contemporary and colleague, Stanislav Kolíbal. The exhibition was the beginning of the last stage of Svoboda’s life and work, when he occasionally returned to photography, but problems with his health and making a living continuously knocked him down right up to his premature end.

Today’s loosely conceived miniature replica of the old exhibition, this time constructed using Sudek’s and Svoboda’s works in the PPF Collection together with documentary photographs by friends and eyewitnesses, is a commemoration of two Czech photographers and an attempt to sketch out again, perhaps now with the greater distance of time and with greater detachment, the lines of force of their affinities and influences.

Pavel Vančát, June 2015 

Actor Richard Gere visits the exhibition Sudek – Svoboda/Comparison II in Atelier Josefa Sudka /Josef Sudek Studio/ in Prague (see PDF).

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CV — Ze sbírky skupiny PPF

Probably the largest private art collection of Czech and Slovak photography at present, it comprises 1,721 works by 128 photographers (as of Jan 2015), including Josef Sudek, František Drtikol, Jaromír Funke, Ivan Pinkava, Tono Stano, Emila Medková, Jaroslav Rössler, Václav Jirásek and others.

PPF Collection

CV — Josef Sudek

The world-renowned Czech photographer Josef Sudek was born in Kolín in 1896 and died in Prague in 1976.

Respected both home and abroad, Josef Sudek became one of the legendary figures of the Czech art scene. Born the son of a painter and decorator in Kolín, he received all of his general education at the village school in Nové Dvory near Kutná Hora. Trained as a bookbinder, he was mostly self-taught as a photographer, though he also studied at the State School of Graphic Arts in Prague. He was a member of the Club of Amateur Photographers in Prague’s Žižkov and the Mánes Society of Fine Artists.
Josef Sudek served as a soldier in the First World War and returned from the Italian front without his right arm. For a while he lived in the Invalidovna veterans’ hospital in Prague’s Karlín. It was there that he made his first major series, The Invalidovna, between 1922 and 1927. He turned down an office job and pursued his life’s calling.

His work since the early 20th century reflects all the developmental trends in modern photography. Beginning with the 1920s he was inspired by Prague. His popular series include the Autumn in Stromovka Park, The Embankments of the Vltava, and Interiors (made just before the completion of St. Vitus’ Cathedral). He also found inspiration in nature, as reflected in his series such as the Slovak Landscape, Landscape near Žebrák, Landscapes of South Bohemia, and Landscapes along the Elbe. Until the Second World War, Sudek also devoted his time to advertising, art reproduction, and portrait photography.

Beginning in 1940, Sudek developed his unique style of contact prints, which he used to work on his personal themes, organised in extensive series that spanned long periods of time. That was the time when his individual contribution to global art was reaching its prime. His other major series include Glass Labyrinths, Labyrinths, and Memories.
Josef Sudek took part in countless exhibitions at home and abroad. He published several books of photographs on Prague and the Prague Castle. His first monograph was published in Prague in 1956. Since his death, a vast amount of books on his life and work have been published both home and abroad.

CV — Jan Svoboda

1934 narozen 27. 7. v Bohuňovicích u Olomouce
1950–54 studia scénického výtvarnictví na Škole uměleckého průmyslu v Praze
1956 začíná fotografovat
1963 jako jediný fotograf se stává členem skupiny Máj
1968 první samostatná výstava v Galerii na Karlově náměstí v Praze
1971-83 fotografem Uměleckoprůmyslového muzea v Praze
1975 souborná výstava v Domě pánů z Kunštátu v Brně
1982 výstava v londýnské Photographer’s Gallery a v Museum of Modern Art v Oxfordu
1983 komparativní výstava s Josefem Sudkem v Roudnici nad Labem
1990 umírá 1. ledna v Praze
CONTACT USJosef Sudek Studio
(Ateliér Josefa Sudka)
Újezd 30
Prague 1, 110 00
Czech Republic
info@atelierjosefasudka.cz

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