Jan Svoboda, Josef Sudek, Ze sbírky skupiny PPF

Comparison II

1. 7. — 30. 8. 2015
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Comparison II

Loosely conceived miniature replica of the old exhibition, this time constructed using Sudek’s and Svoboda’s works in the PPF Collection together with documentary photographs by friends and eyewitnesses.

‘And that was the beginning of an odd relationship, because we couldn’t become friends. I was afraid of him, and he was much older than me. It shocked him that I knew so much about him and his work. And I asked him very tricky questions. He used to say, “Don’t even ask me about things like that. Remember, curiosity killed the cat“.’ Jan Svoboda, interviewed by Liba Taylor, British Journal of Photography, 18 June 1982, pp. 646–49.

I must admit that I was actually led to this exhibition by laziness and self-centredness. When I was approached to take the traditional ‘Sudekian’ summer slot at the Sudek Studio, my thoughts turned to Sudek chiefly in the role of the photographer emulated by Jan Svoboda. I wanted to test Sudek’s work in comparison with Svoboda’s anyway, except, unfortunately, that had already been done long ago by others. It therefore seems most suitable simply to recall this comparison.

When, in 1983, after a mutually acceptable agreement (and after twenty years of increasing problems and fatigue) he quit his job as a photographer at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague, Svoboda received a special award (considering that he was basically just a technician there): the museum organized an exhibition for him at the affiliated Roudnice Art Gallery (in the town of Roudnice nad Labem). It was a comparative exhibition with his life-long model, an event that in fact officially crowned Svoboda as Sudek’s successor. This friendly dismissal with official honours was an expression of Svoboda’s dual role at the museum and in the field of Czech art: on the one hand, a tolerated stubborn bohemian, on the other, a lamentable obscure genius.

The earlier exhibition, Sudek/Svoboda: A Comparison I, was organized by Zdeněk Kirschner, who at the time was Curator of Photography at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague. This untraditionally comparative installation, typographically conceived and using metal rods, was designed by Svoboda’s contemporary and colleague, Stanislav Kolíbal. The exhibition was the beginning of the last stage of Svoboda’s life and work, when he occasionally returned to photography, but problems with his health and making a living continuously knocked him down right up to his premature end.

Today’s loosely conceived miniature replica of the old exhibition, this time constructed using Sudek’s and Svoboda’s works in the PPF Collection together with documentary photographs by friends and eyewitnesses, is a commemoration of two Czech photographers and an attempt to sketch out again, perhaps now with the greater distance of time and with greater detachment, the lines of force of their affinities and influences.

Pavel Vančát, June 2015 

Actor Richard Gere visits the exhibition Sudek – Svoboda/Comparison II in Atelier Josefa Sudka /Josef Sudek Studio/ in Prague (see PDF).
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Works on display (a selection)

Exhibition opening

Jan Svoboda



1950studia scénického výtvarnictví na Škole uměleckého průmyslu v Praze (1950-1954)

selected individual exhibitions

1983komparativní výstava s Josefem Sudkem v Roudnici nad Labem 1982výstava v londýnské Photographer’s Gallery a v Museum of Modern Art v Oxfordu 1975souborná výstava v Domě pánů z Kunštátu v Brně 
souborná výstava v Domě pánů z Kunštátu v Brně
1968první samostatná výstava v Galerii na Karlově náměstí v Praze 
první samostatná výstava v Galerii na Karlově náměstí v Praze


1963jako jediný fotograf se stává členem skupiny Máj 1956začíná fotografovat

Josef Sudek

*17.3.1896 , Kolín
15.9.1976, Praha
The world-renowned Czech photographer Josef Sudek was born in Kolín in 1896 and died in Prague in 1976. Respected both home and abroad, Josef Sudek became one of the legendary figures of the Czech art scene. Born the son of a painter and decorator in Kol

selected individual exhibitions

1976Uměleckoprůmyslové muzeum, Praha
Moravská galerie, Brno
Neue Galerie v německých Cáchách
1932Krásná jizba, Praha


1936nakladatelství Družstevní práce (1927-1936)

Ze sbírky skupiny PPF

Probably the largest private art collection of Czech and Slovak photography at present, it comprises 1,721 works by 128 photographers (as of Jan 2015), including Josef Sudek, František Drtikol, Jaromír Funke, Ivan Pinkava, Tono Stano, Emila Medková, Jaroslav Rössler, Václav Jirásek and others. PPF Collection

AtelierJosef Sudek

Ateliér Josefa Sudka

Újezd 30, 118 00 Prague 1, Czech Republic

Open daily except Monday 12 AM – 6 PM

Tel.: +420 251 510 760

Admission 10 CZK

/ free for students of art schools


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