Sudek’s studio in Újezd
Located on the courtyard between two apartment blocks at Újezd street no. 432, Prague, the studio is a little one-storey pavilion 61 square metres in area. It was listed as a historic monument in 1987 for two reasons. First, it is the last preserved nineteenth-century garden photographic studio, having been moved here, in 1901, from Královské Vinohrady (at the time a Prague suburb). As part of the history of technology, the studio is a unique monument, not just in Prague, but in the whole country. It is an example of the buildings that were erected during the boom in commercial and art photography in many cities in the second half of the nineteenth century. Second, it is linked with the life and work of the most important Czech photographer, Josef Sudek, who began to use it in June 1927. He not only worked here, but also lived in the studio with his sister (and assistant), Božena Sudková, until he moved to another ground-floor flat, at Úvoz 24, Prague, in 1959, and only Božena remained in the studio. To the end of his life, however, Sudek continued to use the darkroom in this studio.
The studio was of great importance to Sudek especially at the beginning of his career. It was where his company used to be based and where he carried most of the work that was ordered from him. When his photography business was closed down during the early years of the Second World War, the studio was no longer just a place for Sudek to work, but was also a source of his inspiration and a subject of his art photography. He depicted the studio at all times of the day and year, inside and out, together with the garden with its lush vegetation and the strangely twisted tree that stood in front of his famous window.
In this studio Sudek made several large series, for example, The Window of My Studio (1940–54), A Walk in My Garden (1944–53), The Garden of My Studio (1950–70), and Still Life at the Window of My Studio (1950–58). These works have achieved world renown and so the space in which they were made has also become famous.
In 1985 a fire broke out here, causing considerable damage to the by then rundown studio. The devastation of the building and its furnishings was increased by the firemen and the remains of the building were in such bad shape that a perfect replica was the only solution.
General partner in the restoration project and an investor in the construction and operation of the studio is the PPF Group. Construction work on the replica began in 2000, under the aegis of the Mayor of Prague, Jan Kasl, with the participation of the photography historian Anna Fárová, the Town Council of Prague 1, the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague, as well as CMC Architects, Květinový Servis, Konstruktiva Branko, Terra Floridus, and Gema Art.
The world-renowned Czech photographer Josef Sudek was born in Kolín in 1896 and died in Prague in 1976.
One of the most famous figures on the Czech arts scene, Sudek is now world famous. The son of a house painter, he was born in the town of Kolín, central Bohemia, and received his education at the village school in Nové Dvory near Kutná Hora. Trained as a bookbinder, he was mostly self-taught as a photographer, though he did get some instruction at the State School of Graphic Arts in Prague. He was a member of the Club of Amateur Photographers in Žižkov (today a district of Prague) and the Mánes Society of Fine Artists.
He served as a soldier in the First World War and returned from the Italian front without his right arm. For a while he lived in the Invalidovna, the veterans’ hospital in the Prague district of Karlín. It was there that he made his first important series, The Invalidovna, in 1922–27. He turned down an office job and devoted himself to his life’s calling.
His works from the early twentieth century reflect all the contemporaneous trends of Modern photography. Beginning in the 1920s he was inspired by Prague. His well-known series are (as Sudek himself informally called them) Autumn in Stromovka Park, The Embankments of the Vltava, and Interiors (made in St Vitus’s during the finishing work on the cathedral). He also found inspiration in nature, which is reflected, for example, in the series Slovak Landscapes, Landscapes near Žebrák, Landscapes of South Bohemia, Landscapes along the Elbe. Until the Second World War, Sudek earned his living by doing work for advertising, photographing paintings, and portraiture.
Beginning in 1940 he developed his unique style of contact prints, with which he depicted the personal themes that he would include in large series made over many years. It was at this time that his individual contribution to art was reaching a highpoint. His other main series include Glass Labyrinths, Labyrinths, and Memories.
Sudek took part in a great number of exhibitions in and outside the country. He published several books of photographs of Prague and Prague Castle. His first book came out in Prague in 1956. Since his death, a great many books about his life and works have been published all over the world.