4.7.1 Frantisek Drtikol

As 'one of the photographers to research' I was struck by Drtikol's use of thrown shadows and use of geometric shapes (I'm also a fan of that architect and designer Charles Rennie McKintosh). Drtikol's work was often related to the avant-garde period of the time as well as cubism and futurism. However, where McKintosh uses lines, Drtikol uses circles and spirals of light and of dark. They soften what otherwise might be harsh images. Equally they cleverly draw us to the subject in the wya that others use lines.

Whilst he was known primarily for portraits of the famous and nude shots it was the image 'The Soul' that struck a chord with my very own soul. Looking at Drtikol's other works the use of shadows and shape seemed aligned with my 'Pilobus' theme. The image was created from carved figures (with elongated shapes). The theme was repeated in many other pictures aimed at symbolically representing various Buddhist themes. Again I find parallels with eastern religions and philosophies.

When I look at Drtikol's nudes using geometric shapes the lines remind me of yin & yang and the Trigram lines of the I Ching.

It is shape and the contrast of light and dark that features so strongly in Dritkol's images, lots of contrast and rich shadows. 

In the slide show that follows 'The Soul' is shown in its original form and inverted (as displayed elsewhere) revealing entirely different interpretations of the image. For me the idea of the soul rising towards enlightenment or heaven appeals.

The images are arranged with the 'created figurines' at the start of the show, followed by the nudes with the final image depicting Buddhist meditation. As such they represent my interests and grouping and are not chronological.

'The Cry' from 1927 also appears and the idea can be seen in David Allan Brandt's images - see the slide show in the blog of the same name on this site.

A front cover of 'Vanity Fair' features the pop singer Madonna in a typical Drtikol pose showing his style's continued relevance.

Drtikol later gave up photography to take up painting themes representing eastern religions and philosophies. This also seemed to coincide with his fall from an internationally recognised photographer to self imposed hermitism and subsequent obscurity.

The Czech photographer Frantisek Drtikol (1883-1961) began his career when Prague Symbolism and "Art Nouveau" still held sway. The influence of these movements is evident in his early nude photographs, which convey a sense of alienation in their painterly quality. In the twenties and early thirties Drtikol reshaped the genre of classical nude photography by synthesizing into a new aesthetic aspects from silent film, avant-garde art, expressive dance and Art Deco design.

After his student years in the artistically fertile Munich of the turn of the century, after his apprenticeship and military service, he opened his own photographic studio in Prague, which became one of the most successful in Europe of the twenties. That his fame later suffered an almost total eclipse is only partly explained by the historical circumstances of the time, for in the early thirties Drtikol gave up photography, sold his studio, valuable glass pates and negatives, to devote himself to painting and mysticism in the seclusion of a hermit's life.
—Introduction from FRANTISEK DRTIKOL: Art-Deco Photographer



  1. I came across this guy while trying to find art deco photographers, as I am going to shoot my neighbours with that background this week. His images are exciting and different. Why is it guys with that vision then go on to something else totally removed from what they achieved. Is that the reason, they have to move on?

  2. Good question is it something about doing what you love despite the effort and reward. Whith recognition comes expectation to produce initially more of the same and then to innovate - when all you want to do is what you love.