František Drtikol (1883-1961)

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First Czech photographer who was internationally recognised during his life. His photographies are included in collections of the world's greatest galleries.

He was born on 3rd March 1883 in Příbram to the family of trader František Drtikol and his wife Marie, born Opplová. He wasn’t successful in studies at grammar school and so he decided to become a photographer. He studied Photography by Antonín Mattas from 1898 to 1901. The religiosity of the city with the centuries-old tradition of Marian pilgrimage to Svatá Hora (Holy Mountain) was one of the rudiments of his deep, and lifelong interest in spirituality and philosophy.

Drtikol opened his first atelier in Příbram in 1907 shortly after graduation from vocational school “Lehr und Versuchsanstalt für Photographie“ in Munchen and returned from military service. Photos taken in the atelier were influenced by Art Nouveau from the turn of the century. They are emotionally and thoughtfully deep and perfectly technically made. It’s landscape compositions, genre scenes and portraits. Photos of miners captured while working underground follow the tradition of the place. His first acts were taken in Příbram studio and they were probably first photos of its kind in Czechoslovakia.

Opening of the well-known studio at Vodičkova Street in Prague dates back to 1912. Some famous psychological portraits of important cultural and public life personalities were taken there (T. G. Masaryk, Edvard Beneš, Alfons Mucha, Paul Vallery, Thákur and many more) as well as many unique acts. Beginnings of Prague studio is connected to cooperation with Augustin Škarda (album Z dvorů a dvorečků staré Prahy)

After World War I. Drtikol innovated his work and enriched it with the influence of Expressionism, Futurism, Cubism, Purism and Abstractionist tendencies. He became internationally known in the second half of the 1920s when he presented himself on exhibitions in Europe and the US as the main protagonist of Art Deco photographer. He received Grand Prix Award on The International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts in Paris in 1925. His act album ”Les nus Drtikol” was released there in 1929.

In the first half of the 1930s, he began to work with paper and wooden shapes and created meditative compositions. He became more interested in Eastern spirituality. In 1935 he ended up his photography career and donated more than 5,000 works to Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague. He spent upcoming years in seclusion in Spořilov in Prague. He dedicated himself to translations of spiritual literature from German, writing down his visions and thoughts, yoga, Buddhism and teaching spirituality to his friends. He used his symbolic themes in drawings and graphics and drew paintings influenced by meditations.

He died on 13th January 1961 and is buried in native Příbram.

Gallery in Ernestinum Chateau was named after František Drtikol in 2000. Permanent exhibition dedicated to life and work of the well-known photographer is part of the exhibition space. His extensive work of art and personal life remain a source of inspiration.

Author: Hana Ročňáková, ředitelka Galerie Františka Drtikola Příbram