Exhibition: ‘Czech Photography of the 20th Century’ at the Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany, Bonn

Exhibition dates: 13th March – 26th July 2009


Jindřich Štreit. 'Arnoltice' 1985


Jindřich Štreit (Czech, b. 1946)
From the Village Life series
Gelatin silver print



Jindřich Štreit (born 5 September 1946 in Vsetín) is a Czech photographer and pedagogue known for his documentary photography. He concentrates on documenting the rural life and people of Czech villages. He is considered one of the most important exponents of Czech documentary photography.



Looks like an interesting exhibition. I wish I had been able to see it. Wouldn’t it be such a grand job flying around the world, reviewing photography exhibitions and bringing you my thoughts. I can only wish…


Many thankx to the Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.


Frantisek Drtikol. 'Wave' 1925


František Drtikol (Czech, 1883-1961)
Gelatin silver print



Czech photography produced and produces leading figures in all areas of photography – from classical documentary photojournalism to surrealism, realism or avant-garde works. From 13 March 2009 on, the Art and Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany is presenting over 400 photographic works, a historical mosaic of Czech photography from 1900 until the late 20th century that underlines the international reputation enjoyed by Czech photography today. That reputation is not only apparent in the outstanding contributions by such renowned artists as Josef Sudek, Karel Hájek, Václav Jírů, Vilém Reichmann, Jan Reich, Jindřich Štreit, Frantisek Drtikol, Jaromír Funke, Jaroslav Rossler, Josef Koudelka and Jan Saudek, but also in works from a host of younger photographers. The exhibition does not only showcase famous names but also less well-known photographers, providing an overall impression of the variation and innovation in Czech photography.

From Surrealism and other avant-garde experimentation to realism and classic photo reportage, Czech photographers have long played a key role in all areas of photography and continue to do so to this day.

This exhibition is the first in Germany to present the history and development of Czech photography from 1900 to the turn of the millennium. Beginning with Art Nouveau-inspired Pictorialism, the comprehensive survey traces the rise of avant-garde photography and the development of photo montage in the 1920s to the 1940s. It examines the influence of ideological pressure on photography during the Second World War, the Stalinist 1950s and the period of Communist ‘normalisation’ after the occupation in 1968 and introduces the visitor to the multifaceted range of contemporary trends.

Text from the Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany website [Online] Cited 10/04/2009 (no longer available online)


František Drtikol (1883-1961) 'Nude' 1927


František Drtikol (Czech, 1883-1961)
Gelatin silver print



František Drtikol (3 March 1883, Příbram – 13 January 1961, Prague) was a Czech photographer of international renown. He is especially known for his characteristically epic photographs, often nudes and portraits.

From 1907 to 1910 he had his own studio, until 1935 he operated an important portrait photostudio in Prague on the fourth floor of one of Prague’s remarkable buildings, a Baroque corner house at 9 Vodičkova, now demolished. Jaroslav Rössler, an important avant-garde photographer, was one of his pupils. Drtikol made many portraits of very important people and nudes which show development from pictorialism and symbolism to modern composite pictures of the nude body with geometric decorations and thrown shadows, where it is possible to find a number of parallels with the avant-garde works of the period. These are reminiscent of Cubism, and at the same time his nudes suggest the kind of movement that was characteristic of the futurism aesthetic.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Eugen Wiskovsky. 'Lunar Landscape or Collars' 1929


Eugen Wiskovsky (Czech, 1888-1964)
Lunar Landscape or Collars
Gelatin silver print



The oeuvre of the leading Czech avant-garde photographer Eugen Wiskovsky (1888-1964) is not large in size or subject range, but it is noteworthy in its originality, depth of ideas, and mastery. Wiskovsky’s early New Objectivist works, from the late 1920s and early 1930s, sought artistic effect in apparently non-aesthetic objects: His inventive lighting and cropping allowed their elementary lines to stand out, to lose their worldly associations and take on potential metaphorical meanings. In his dynamic diagonal compositions, Wiskovsky was among the most radical practitioners of Czech Constructivism. His landscape work is similarly distinctive.


Jaroslav Rossler. 'Untitled' 1931


Jaroslav Rössler (Czech, 1902-1990)
Gelatin silver print



Jaroslav Rössler (25 May 1902, Smilov – 5 January 1990, Prague) was a pioneer of Czech avant-garde photography and a member of the association of Czech avant-garde artists Devětsil (Butterbur).

Rössler was born to the Czech-German father, Eduard Rössler, and a Czech mother, Adela Nollova. From 1917 to 1920, Rössler studied in the atelier of the company owned by renowned Czech photographer František Drtikol. Subsequently, he worked with the company as a laboratory technician. As a 21 years old, he began collaboration with the art theorist Karel Teige, who assigned him to create typographic layout for magazines Pásmo, Disk, Stavba and ReD (Revue Devětsilu). While working on these tasks, Rössler deepened his knowledge of photographic methods. In his works he utilised and combined the techniques of photogram, photomontage, collage and drawing. The beginnings of his photographic work were influenced by Cubism and Futurism, but he also attempted to create the first abstract photographs. In 1923, he became a member of the avant-garde association Devětsil.

In 1925, he went on a six-month study visit to Paris. The same year he began working as a photographer in the Osvobozené divadlo in Prague. Before his second departure to Paris, he co-worked as a commercial photographer with the pictorial magazine Pestrý týden.

In 1927, Rössler moved to Paris together with his wife, Gertruda Fischerová (1894-1976). Initially, he focused on commercial photography. He collaborated with the experimental studio of Lucien Lorell, and worked on commissions for notable companies such as Michelin and Shell. However, later he found an interest in the “street life” of Paris, which influenced his future stay in the city. During a demonstration, he encountered the protesters and took photographs of the event. Shortly after that he was arrested, and after a six-month imprisonment he was expelled from the country, in 1935. The alleged reason for his expulsion was his German-sounding surname.

After his return from Paris, Rössler and his wife resided in Prague, Žižkov. He opened a small photographic atelier, but difficulties associated with the management of the studio caused a significant gap in his artistic work, lasting for almost two decades.

In the 1950s, he resumed his previous activities and again began experimenting with the camera and photographic techniques. He created so-called “prizmata” (prisms), photographs taken through a birefringent prism. Additionally, he experimented with solarisation and explored the possibilities of the Sabatier effect.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Eugen Wiskovsky. 'Disaster' 1939


Eugen Wiskovsky (Czech, 1888-1964)
Gelatin silver print


Josef Sudek. 'The Last Rose' 1956


Josef Sudek (Czech, 1896-1976)
The Last Rose from the Rose series
Gelatin silver print



Josef Sudek (17 March 1896, Kolín, Bohemia – 15 September 1976, Prague) was a Czech photographer, best known for his photographs of Prague.

Sudek was originally a bookbinder. During the First World War he was drafted into the Austro-Hungarian Army in 1915 and served on the Italian Front until he was wounded in the right arm in 1916 which led to the limb being amputated at the shoulder. After the war he studied photography for two years in Prague under Jaromir Funke. His army disability pension gave him leeway to make art, and he worked during the 1920s in the romantic Pictorialist style. Always pushing at the boundaries, a local camera club expelled him for arguing about the need to move forwards from ‘painterly’ photography. Sudek then founded the progressive Czech Photographic Society in 1924. Despite only having one arm, he used large, bulky cameras with the aid of assistants.

Sudek’s photography is sometimes said to be modernist. But this is only true of a couple of years in the 1930s, during which he undertook commercial photography and thus worked “in the style of the times”. Primarily, his personal photography is neo-romantic.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Josef Sudek was a Czech photographer best known for his elegiac black-and-white images of Prague, interiors, still lifes, and the landscapes of Bohemian forests. Many of Sudek’s most memorable images were taken from the window of his small studio, documenting his humble courtyard during changing weather and light conditions. “Everything around us, dead or alive, in the eyes of a crazy photographer mysteriously takes on many variations,” he explained, “so that a seemingly dead object comes to life through light or by its surroundings.”

Text from the artnet website [Online] Cited 10/01/2019


Jan Saudek (Czechoslovakia, b. 1935) 'Life' 1966


Jan Saudek (Czech, b. 1935)
Gelatin silver print


Josef Koudelka (Czech, b. 1938) 'France' 1987


Josef Koudelka (Czech, b. 1938)
Gelatin silver print



The Art and Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany
Museumsmeile Bonn
Helmut-Kohl-Allee 4
53113 Bonn
Telephone: +49 228 9171-200

Opening hours:
Thursday – Sunday and Tuesday 10am – 7pm
Closed Mondays

Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany website


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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, an art and cultural memory archive, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

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