Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Josef Sudek – Portraits of Czech Friends and Milena Vildova, His Lover

Yesterday, we looked at Josef Sudek's phenomenal Prague Panoramas taken during the 1950's. In addition to that series and his Labyrinths, Still Lifes, and Saint Vitus's Cathedral, Sudek also made portraits, mostly of his friends and family. These portraits show the same amazing composition and light effects of those other images but we are looking at his contemporaries. Although there are any number of web pages devoted to Sudek's work, finding examples of his portrait work is more difficult. The Boston Museum of Fine Arts has ten pages of Sudek images, with quite a number of portraits sprinkled from page to page, an enticement to continue to "turn" the page so to speak. Most of these images are different than those in the one book devoted to his portraiture - Josef Sudek - Portraits. Milena Vildova, today's lead image, was Sudek's lover from the 1940's into at least the early sixties. Another image of her face was chosen for the cover of Portraits. This is definitely a must see book. It's available in most libraries, large bookstores such as Powell's. It's also now on my bookshelf.

Without further ado, meet some of Josef Sudek's friends...
First up is artist Vaclav Sivko. Sivko was a painter, printer and illustrator of both children's books and works of poetry, including a Czech version of Lawrence Ferlinghetti's Streets of San Francisco.

Next is his good friend and fellow photographer, Jaromir Funke. Although Funke was born the same year as Sudek, he died in 1945, at the height of his artistic career.

The Portraits book has a frontal pose of Otto Rothmayer. This image shown below is intriguing from a number of perspectives. As Olafur Elliasion, the Icelandic painter, and others would say "take your time" viewing this image. Otto Rothmayer was an architect who helped with the redesign of the Prague Castle.

Bozena Sudkova was Josef Sudek's sister. In 1927 she moved in with him in his newly acquired studio, the Atelier, and took on the role of secretary, assistant, cook, laundress and housekeeper. And there they both stayed for the next 30 years at which point he was assigned an apartment by the government. Sudkova continued to live and work for him in that studio until his death. She remained on until the building itself burned. Subsequent to that time, the Atelier has been rebuilt and can be visited when you travel to Prague. In this view, she sits in front of the open window to the garden.

Sudek doesn't seem to have taken many nude photos, at least there are not many references to them. Christies sold this unidentified image. Perhaps Milena Vildova agreed to this pose as well as the many "regular" portraits found in the Portraits book. I'm choosing to think so.

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