František Drtikol - Photographs Evening Sale New York Wednesday, April 1, 2015 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

  • Literature

    Drtikol, František Drtikol: Pracovní kniha Fotografii, n.p. for variants

  • Catalogue Essay

    Defying categorization into any of the specific artistic movements of the era, František Drtikol’s work stands at the forefront of Czech expressionism in the early-mid 20th century. The rare and beautiful example of a nude study offered in the present lot was made during Drtikol’s most important period (1925-1930) when he created a series of highly original compositions using the female nude in contrast to abstract geometric forms which demonstrated his highly personal vision of movement and space.

    According to Karl Eric Toepfer, author of Empire of Ecstasy: Nudity and Movement in German Body Culture, 1910-1935, Drtikol’s obsession with movement and female nudes started in 1912 when he made a series of 12 photographs depicting the dancer Olga Gzovska’s Salame, a sensual performance which highlighted her body by eliminating the extravagance of excess costume. In 1914 he began photographing Ervina Kupferova, a dancer at the National Theatre and director of a Dalcroze school, whom he married in 1919. But it was not until Kupferova left their marriage to further her dancing career in Russia that Drtikol started to create his famous photographic series of nudes comingled with rhythmic forms. Juxtaposing models with wooden props, Drtikol captured the shadows and planes created by the interplay between them and, as we see in the present lot, highlighted the symmetry of the distinct forms- the nude on the left and the props surrounding, even isolating, her. As Toepfer further notes “...the women moved like dancers in so far as their movements projected no functional value, existing entirely to signify an inner condition of freedom and power... Nevertheless, no matter how freely the body seemed to move in the image, it was always remained hemmed in."

    The pigment print, of which the present lot is an example, was a process that Drtikol used throughout his career but almost exclusively during this later period. While he embraced more painterly methods of printing (often combining bromoil, coal, and multi -color pigment in a single print) - as his vision moved away from Pictorialism towards a more modernist approach to photography, he found the pigment print process alone to be the truest way to represent the form in space. Today, Drtikol’s pigment prints of nude compositions from 1925-1930 are his most sought after prints on the market.

    Beginning in 1930, and perhaps because of the devastating economic crises for the newly formed Czech Republic, Drtikol stopped using models and replaced them with paper cutouts. At this point Drtikol’s work became extremely stylized with his paper sculptures of female nudes dancing or moving through what Toepfer aptly describes as “… a much more cosmically nebulous space toward an ecstatic light.” In 1935 Drtikol quit making photographs devoting the rest of his life to teaching theosophical mysticism.



Pigment print.
11 3/8 x 8 7/8 in. (28.9 x 22.5 cm)
Signed and dated in pencil on the mount.

$80,000 - 120,000 

Sold for $106,250

Contact Specialist
Vanessa Kramer Hallett
Worldwide Head, Photographs

Shlomi Rabi
Head of Sale, New York

General Enquiries:
+1 212 940 1245

Photographs Evening Sale

New York 1 April 2015 6pm