Étienne Sved

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Étienne Sved (1914-1996) was Hungarian-born French-naturalised photographer and poster artist.

Early life[edit]

Étienne Sved was born Süsz István in Székesfehérvar, Hungary, in 1914, changing his name on June 9, 1947.[1]

Rejected by the art schools of Budapest because he was Jewish, in 1930 Sved studied drawing at Atelier Budapest, a school of graphic arts founded in Budapest by Bauhaus teachers fleeing Nazi Germany.

Exile and work in Egypt during WWII[edit]

In face of the rising threat of Nazism, Sved fled to Egypt in 1938, traveling the country on a donkey, touring ancient funerary sites on the banks of the Nile, and eventually befriending Abbot Drioton, director of the Cairo Museum.<ref.Art égyptien (1950) Text by Étienne Drioton (1889-1961), photographs by Étienne Sved.</ref> Sved remained in the country until 1946 and through his friendship with the writer and intellectual Georges Henein, founder of the surrealist Jama’at al-Fann Wa al-Hurriyyah (Art and Liberty Group)[2] active 1939 - 1945, Sved worked as a photographer at the French paper Le Progrés Egyptien. In 1945, when Sved executed a series of posters for a local brand of cigarettes called Setos, Henein was the director of the company in Gianaclis that owned it.

Sved published many satirical drawings before discovering photography, and while in Cairo, he created a series of anti-Nazi caricatures that were republished many years later in a bound volume titled Adolf ou à quand le crèpuscule des odieux?[3] His photographic work illustrated Jean Cocteau's Maalesh, a journal inspired by Cocteau's 1949 stay in Egypt.

Sved’s eagerness to document the local Arab and Bedouin populations, rather than the French colonialists, led him to create an impressive collection of images of artefacts and street photographs of great historical value, which appear notably in a work published in 1954, Egypt face to face, with a text by Tristan Tzara for whom it became his most popular book during his lifetime, selling over 20,000 copies.[4][5]

In France[edit]

Étienne Sved departed Egypt for France in 1946, and the following year married. He became a naturalised French citizen in 1949. He continued his photographic career while successfully pursuing a career as a graphic designer in advertising.

In 1952, he travelled to Algiers to produce, over a six-week stay, 600 illustrations for the album Algiers, 1951, a country in waiting with texts by Benjamin Stora, and two Algerian writers, Malek Alloula and Maïssa Bey.[6]

In 1955 a photograph of an Egyptian woman bearing a water jar was selected for the world-touring exhibition The Family of Man by Edward Steichen, curator of photography at MoMA.

In 1962, he set up a publishing house and moved to Haute Provence producing Provence des campaniles (1972), which won the Nadar prize in 1990. He continued his work as a publisher and photographer until his death in 1996.


In 2003, the Nicéphore-Niépce museum acquired the Middle Eastern photographic collection of Étienne Sved, comprising more than 3,000 negatives and vintage prints, and mounted a major retrospective in the same year in Manosque. The following year, Denon museum in Chalon-sur-Saône showed Moolesh, seventy-five photographs taken during his early years in Egypt along with memorabilia including a self-portrait of Sved from around 1940; his 1944 press card for Le Progrés Egyplien; and the Hungarian civil status certificate recording his name change from Istvan Süsz on June 9, 1947.


  • Art égyptien (1950) Text by Étienne Drioton (1889-1961), photographs by Étienne Sved.
  • Étienne Sved: East meets West (1943) Cairo: R. Schnindler.
  • Étienne Sved, Tristan Tzara (1896-1963c) L'Égypte face à face (Egypt face to face), 2nd ed. Pierrevert : Sved 1988
  • Nice in full light (1976) editions: Saint Michel-l'Observatoire / Paris: Sved, 1972
  • Étienne Sved, Malek Alloula (1937-2015) , Maïssa Bey , Benjamin Stora Alger 1951: un pays dans l'attente (Alger 1951: a country in waiting) Algiers: Barzakh, Barbentane : Équinoxe , 1996.
  • Étienne Sved, Jean Cocteau (1889-1963) Maalesh. Manosque: Bec up ed. ; [Chalon-sur-Saône]: Nicephore Niepce Museum, 2003
  • Pièges et contradictions du présent / [by] Jean Maillé ; [and] Étienne Sved / [Paris] : Éditions Sved , [1972]

Publications about Étienne Sved[edit]

  • Mars, Christiane; Pavia, Fabienne; Sved, Yvett (2003) Étienne Sved Photographiste 1914 - 1996. MUS Publishing, Hilton, New York



http://www.sved.free.fr was created in May 2002 by the association "The Friends of Étienne Sved" for the conservation, the promotion and the diffusion of the artist’s work.


  1. ^ Ferenc Markovics, editor of Fények és tények (szerk.: Ferenc Markovics) MFSZ, 2006. 230. HUN, a book on the Association of Hungarian Photo-Artists, discloses that two photo-artists called István Svéd lived at the same time: Étienne Sved, and Stefan Sved Magyarized who changed his name from Seidner to Sved (1924–2000) who had first emigrated to Sweden, then eventually passed away in Israel.
  2. ^ Bardaouil, Sam & ProQuest (Firm) (2017). Surrealism in Egypt : modernism and the Art and Liberty group. I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd, London ; New York, NY
  3. ^ Adolf ou à quand le crépuscule des odieux? [Texte imprimé]: Opéra bouffe / Illustrations Etienne Sved; préface de Rita Thalmann / [Paris]: Ed. de Nesle, [1980?]
  4. ^ Hentea, Marius (2014), TaTa Dada : the real life and celestial adventures of Tristan Tzara, Cambridge, Massachusetts The MIT Press, p. 278, ISBN 978-0-262-02754-0
  5. ^ "...it seems to be simply an album of photographs, the extraordinary photographs of Etienne Sved that make you look at the pictures of the ancient arl of Egypt and the reflections of the present: Egypt face to face. Tristan Tzara's commentary is a vast and continuous poem on the equation of songs of the millennia and the poet's current word. Face to face presents a strange resemblance between the language of the scribes, ritualistic chants, proverbs, and the prose-poetry of Tristan Tzara is revealed. The challenge here was to enter into dialogue - what a reward - with the ancient song, over the temporal layers. Jacques Gaucheron 'Esquisse pour un portrait' Europe; Jul 1, 1975; 33
  6. ^ McGonagle, Joseph; Welch, Edward, 1973-, (author.) (2013), Contesting views : the visual economy of France and Algeria, Liverpool University Press, p. 189:N29, ISBN 978-1-84631-884-9CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  7. ^ Bardaouil, Sam, (editor.) & Fellrath, Till, (editor.) & Tate Gallery Liverpool (host institution.) & Centre Georges Pompidou (host institution.) & Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (host institution.) et al. (2016). Art et liberté : rupture, war and Surrealism in Egypt (1938-1948). Paris Éditions Skira Paris