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Still Life, c.1952

Still Life, c.1952

Josef Sudek (1896-1976) was born in the Czech Republic. Originally a bookbinder, Sudek was badly injured during World War I,  resulting in a partial amputation of his right arm.   In the 1920s he studied photography for two years in Prague under Jaromir Funke and worked primarily in the Pictorialist style. Eventually a local camera club expelled him for arguing about the need to move forward from 'painterly' photography and he then founded the progressive Czech Photographic Society in 1924.

During and after World War II Sudek created haunting night-scapes and panoramas of Prague, photographed the wooded landscape of Bohemia, and the window-glass that led to his garden (the famous The Window of My Atelier series). He went on to photograph the crowded interior of his studio (the Labyrinths series).

Sudek's individualism did not fit in with the new post-war Czech Socialist Republic, but the strong artistic tradition of the country meant that there were many who supported his work. He was the first photographer to be honoured by the Republic with the title of 'Artist of Merit' and in his 70th year, his life's work was recognized by the 'Order of Labour'.

Known as the "Poet of Prague", Sudek never married, and was a shy, retiring person. He never appeared at his exhibit openings and few people appear in his photographs.