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Josef Sudek

(Czech Republic 1896 – 1976)

Other titles:
Frost's signature
Media category
Materials used
gelatin silver photograph

16.8 x 10.5 cm image/sheet

Signature & date
Signed l.r. image, pencil "Sudek". Not dated.
Purchased 1986
Accession number
Not on display
Further information

'Using this box camera completely changed the space. The perspective was different … What had been intended as a dominant suddenly wasn't the most important thing at all … I found out I had to look as if I were the camera.' Josef Sudek 1950s 1

Known as the 'poet of Prague', Josef Sudek's photographic career was affected by two world wars. The first stimulated his amateur photographic interest and cemented it, albeit due to misfortune, after he lost his right arm to a grenade. Denied his chosen trade of bookbinding, Sudek returned from the First World War to follow his interest in photography encouraged by his friend, photographer Jaromír Funke, with whom he founded the Czech Photographic Society. After studying at Prague's newly established State School of Graphic Arts, and influenced by the work of Clarence H White, Sudek became a professional photographer and his business soon flourished. His love of art and music found him in the company of many artists whose work he photographed leading to several commissions from the state gallery. In a synchronistic moment he discovered a photographic contact print of a statue and its quality and depth of detail impressed him greatly. In the intervening years of the Second World War, with commissions dropping off, Sudek stayed close to home developing his new interest in using contact prints direct from the glass plate.

He began varying cycles of photographs such as 'A walk in my garden' 1940-76 and 'The window of my studio' 1940-54. In 'Untitled' 1940-54, the gnarled form of a tree in the grip of winter is seen through the rivers of ice that have formed on Sudek's window, distorting the view and creating a dream-like atmosphere that reflects his interest in the surrealist movement. Using only natural light and long exposures Sudek's skill resulted in prints that have a unique depth of tone and light that contribute to the abstracted forms that he captured direct from nature.

1. Fárová A 1990, ‘A deepening vision’, ‘Aperture’, no 118, spring p 86

© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007

Bibliography (6)

Judy Annear, The Enigmatic Object, Sydney, 1997. no catalogue numbers

Art Gallery of New South Wales, Five years on: a selection of acquisitions 1981-1986, Sydney, 1986. 176

Donna Brett, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'A postwar modernist vision', pg.209-225, Sydney, 2007, 213, 216 (illus.).

Michael Frizot (Editor), A new history of photography, Köln, 1998, 492, 493 (illus.). Note the collective title is different in this publication "From the series, From the window of my atelier".

Robert McFarlane, Critic's Choice, Sydney, 1994. no catalogue numbers

Jan Rezac, Sudek, Czechoslovakia, 1964, 25 (illus.). titled 'Frost's signature' 1950-54

Exhibition history (6)

Five years on: a selection of acquisitions 1981-1986, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 26 Sep 1986–23 Nov 1986

Works from the Photography Collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 10 Feb 1989–15 May 1989

Critic's Choice, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 22 Apr 1994–10 Jul 1994

The Enigmatic Object, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 15 Apr 1997–22 Jun 1997

Flatlands: photography and everyday space, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 13 Sep 2012–03 Feb 2013

Flatlands: photography & everyday space, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 15 Sep 2012–03 Feb 2013