Frantisek Drtikol was a founder of Czech modernist photography and a seminal figure in Czech photography before the Second World War. Now recognized as a modern master, Drtikol produced a monumental body of work--from early Pictorialist and Art Nouveau portraits and landscapes to the influential nude studies of the 20s and 30s--that has permanently established his place in the history of photography. The son of a grocer in the Central Bohemian town of Príbram, Drtikol showed early promise in drawing and painting. Desiring to see his son enter a more practical profession, Drtikol's father arranged for an apprenticeship with a local photographer, Antonín Mattas. During the next three years, Drtikol learned the basics of copying, retouching, toning, and other photographic tasks, but could devote little time to his own photography. In 1901, at the age of 18, Drtikol completed his apprenticeship and left home to attend the Teaching and Research Institute of Photography in Munich. The two-year course of study at the Institute set the course for Drtikol's entire career as an artist. Fin-de-siècle Munich was a thriving German art capital and one of the major European centers of Symbolism and Art Nouveau. Aspects of both movements preoccupied Drtikol throughout his life. In 1907, after several years of travel and work for other photographers, Drtikol returned to Príbram to open his own photographic studio, which he moved to Prague in 1910. In those years, while making his living from custom portrait photography in the Art Nouveau style, he experimented with oil and gum printing and other Pictorialist techniques, producing lyrical landscapes and some of the earliest fine-art nudes produced in Bohemia. Eventually, the nude would become Drtikol's primary mode of photographic expression. In the 1920s he developed the unique style for which he is best known, using Cubist and Art Deco sculptural motifs, elements of Expressionist dance, and ingenious geometric patterns of shadow and light to create dynamic nudes in which the body, no longer serving an illustrative or metaphorical purpose, became a purely aesthetic and erotic motif. In 1935, Drtikol abandoned photography and devoted himself to painting and to the theosophical, Bhuddist, and other philosophical studies that had informed much of his art. (excerpted from ARTEXHIBITIONS brochure, Curatorial Assistance, Pasadena, CA, 1997-1998)
The Other Side of Frantisek Drtikol exh. cat. Jacques Baruch Gallery, Chicago, 1991.