Jan Saudek

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Jan Saudek

Jan Saudek (b. 13 May 1935 in Prague, Czechoslovakia) is a Czech art photographer and painter.


Saudek's father was a Jew[1] and this, coupled with his Slavic (Czech) heritage, caused his family to become a target of the Nazis. Many of his family members died in the Theresienstadt concentration camp during World War II. Jan and his brother Karel were held in a children's concentration camp for Mischlinge located near the present Polish-Czech border. His father Gustav was deported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp in February 1945. Both sons and father survived the war. According to Saudeks's biography, he got his first camera, a Kodak Baby Brownie, in 1950. He apprenticed to a photographer and in 1952 started working as a print shop worker, where he worked until 1983. In 1959, he started using a more advanced camera, the Flexaret 6x6, and also engaged in painting and drawing. After completing his military service, he was inspired in 1963 by the exhibit catalogue of Steichen's Family of Man to try to become a serious art photographer. In 1969, he traveled to the United States and was encouraged in his work by curator Hugh Edwards.

Returning to Prague, he was forced to work in a clandestine manner in a cellar, to avoid the attentions of the secret police, as his work turned to themes of personal erotic freedom, and used implicitly political symbols of corruption and innocence. From the late 1970s, he gradually became recognized in the West as the leading Czech photographer, and also developed a following among photographers in his own country. In 1983, the first book on his work was published in the English-speaking world. The same year, he finally became a freelance photographer as the Czech Communist authorities allowed him to cease working in the print shop, and gave him permission to apply for a permit to work as an artist. In 1987, the archives of his negatives were seized by the police, but later returned.

Saudek currently lives and works in Prague. His brother Karel Saudek is also an artist, and is now the best-known Czech graphic novelist.


Poster to film by Adolf Zika: Jan Saudek: Bound by Passion (2008).

His best-known work is noted for its hand-tinted portrayal of painterly dream worlds, often inhabited by nude or semi-nude figures surrounded by bare plaster walls or painted backdrops, frequently re-using identical elements (for instance, a clouded sky or a view of Prague's Charles Bridge). In this they echo the studio and tableaux works of mid nineteenth century erotic photographers, as well as the works of the painter Balthus, and the work of Bernard Faucon. His early art photography is noted for its evocation of childhood. Later his works often portrayed the evolution from child to adult (re-photographing the same composition/pose, and with the same subjects, over many years). Religious motives or the ambiguity between man and woman have also been some of Jan Saudek's recurring themes. His work was the subject of attempts at censorship in the West during the 1990s.

Some of the works of Jan Saudek have entered popular culture in the West, being used as covers for the albums of Anorexia Nervosa (New Obscurantis Order), Soul Asylum (Grave Dancers Union), Daniel Lanois (For the Beauty of Wynona), and Beautiful South (Welcome to the Beautiful South).

Jan Saudek's imagery has had a mixed international reception. Quite early, he had shows in the United States and in Australia, where in 1970 his work was shown at the Australian Centre for Photography and was welcomed by curator Jennie Boddington at the National Gallery of Victoria. In the same country, by contrast, Black Sheep & White Crow which features a semi-naked prepubescent girl was removed from the Ballarat International Foto Biennale on the eve of its opening on August 21, 2011 following child prostitution claims.[2]


Solo shows[edit]

  • Int. Photofestival Spillimbergo & Udine, Italy Centres of Art, Tarnow, Poland


  • Chamber Gallery U Schell, Budweis, Czech Republic
  • Visio Art Gallery, Plzeň
  • Mondo Bizzarro Gallery, Rome, Italy
  • Phototheatron, Athens, Greece
  • Galerie Esther Woerdehoff (group exhibition), Pari Fancie
  • Ballarat Int. Photo Biennale, Melbourne, Australia


  • Fotografija Gallery, Ljubljana, Slovenia
  • Fotofestival Nordic Light, Kristiansund, Norway
  • Kunsthandel gallery, Graz, Austria
  • Nordic Light (int. Festival of photography) Kristiansund (NORWAY)
  • Fotografia Galerija, Ljubljana (Slovenia)


  • Gallery VELVET KELLY, Žilina (SK)
  • Monopoli-Castello Carlo V. (ITALY)


  • VELVET Gallery, Bojnice (SK)
  • Royal Palace (along with JPWitkinem), Milano (IT)


  • Galerie Jan Saudek, Prague (CZ)


  • International fotobienále, 6th edition, Moscow (RU)
  • IN FOCUS Gallery, Cologne (GERMANY)


  • House White Unicorn, Prague (CZ)
  • Gallery of Photography Past Rays (JAPAN)
  • K. Mennour Gallery, Paris (FRANCE)


  • Krišal Gallery, Geneve (Swiss)
  • Lattuada Studio Gallery, Milan (ITALY)


  • Broel Museum
  • Biennale de Venise (ITALY)
  • FIAC, Galerie K. Mennour, Paris (FRANCE)
  • Krišal Gallery, Geneve (SUISSE)


  • Comenius Museum, Naarden (NL)
  • University of Nothingham


  • Carousel de Louvre, Paris Art Gallery Mennour, Paris (F)


  • Paris Photo Gallery Mennour, Paris (F)
  • VB Photographic Centre, Kuopio (FIN)


  • Bergamot Station Art Center BGH Gallery, Santa Monica (USA)
  • Municipal House in Prague (CZ)
  • The Museum of Photography, Tel-Hai (Israel)


  • Museo Ken Damy, Brescia (I)
  • Paris Photo, Krišal Gallery, Paris (F)


  • Museum of Art, Olomouc (CZ)


  • A Gallery for fine photography, New Orleans (USA)


  • Parco Gallery, Tokyo (J)


  • Month of Photography, Palffy Palace, Bratislava (SK)


  • Galerie Municipale du Chateau d'Eau, Toulouse (F)


  • Musee National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (F)
  • Portfolio Gallery, London (UK)


  • Robert Koch Gallery, Los Angeles (USA)
  • Gallery Yokohama, Yokohama (J)
  • RIP, Arles (F)


  • Photography Forum Frankfurt, Frankfurt (D)
  • Jan Kesner Gallery, Los Angeles (USA)


  • Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris (F)


  • Centre National de la Photographie, Paris (F)
  • Photography Forum Frankfurt, Frankfurt (D)


  • Münchner Stadtmuseum, München (D)


  • Musee National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (F)

1981 Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati (USA) Jacques Baruch Gallery, Chicago (USA) Marcuse Pfeifer Gallery, New York (USA)

1980 FNAC - Montparnasse, Paris (F) photokina, Cologne, (D)

1979 G.Ray Hawkins Gallery, Los Angeles (USA)


  • Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati (USA)
  • International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House, Rochester (USA)


  • Australian Centre of Photography, Sydney (AUS)
  • National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (AUS)
  • RIP, Arles (F)


  • Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago (USA)
  • Jacques Baruch Gallery, Chicago (USA)


  • The University of Indiana, Bloomington (USA)

Group Exhibitions (Selection)[edit]

  • Int. Photofestival Spillimbergo & Udine (I)
  • Centres of Art, Tarnow (PL)


  • Chamber Gallery U Schell, České Budějovice (CZ)
  • Visio Art Gallery, Plzen (CZ)
  • Mondo Bizzarro Gallery, Rome (I)
  • Phototheatron, Athens (GR)
  • Galerie Esther Woerdehoff (group exhibition), Paris (F)
  • Ballarat Int. Photo Biennale, Melbourne (AUS)


  • Fotografija Gallery, Ljubljana (SLO)
  • Kunsthandel gallery, Graz (A)
  • Nordic Light (int. Festival of photography) Kristiansund (NORWAY)
  • 2009
  • Münchner Stadt Museum - History of nude in photography (Museum collection)
  • Munich State Museum, Munich (D)


  • Absolut Generations, 50th Biennale of Modern Art, Venezia (I)


  • Nude in Czech Photography, Museum of Art, Olomouc (CZ)
  • Nude in Czech Photography, Prague Castle, Prague (CZ)
  • Typical Men, Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow (Scotland)


  • Absolut Ego, Musee des Arts Decoratifs, Paris (F)


  • Zärtlicher Blick auf schöne Damen, Museum Ludwig, Cologne (D)


  • Month of Photography, Paris (F)
  • The Body in Contemporary Czech Photography, Macintosh Gallery, Glasgow (Scotland)


  • Security and search in Czech photography 90s, Prague Castle, Prague (CZ)


  • Fotofeis - Scottish International Festival of Photography (Scotland)


  • Fotofeis - Scottish International Festival of Photography (Scotland)


  • Tschechoslowakische Photos der Gegenward, Museum Ludwig, Cologne (D)


  • Das Aktfoto, Münchener Stadtmuseum, München (D)

Work in collections[edit]

  • The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago (USA)
  • Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (USA)
  • Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (F)
  • International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House, Rochester (USA)
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (USA)
  • Moravian Gallery in Brno (CZ)
  • Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris (F)
  • Musée Paul Getty, Los Angeles (USA)
  • Museum Ludwig, Cologne (D)
  • National Gallery of Australia, Canberra (AUS)
  • National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (AUS)

Books, Monographs and Catalogues (Selection)[edit]

  • Jan Saudek-Photo, and Jiri Masin Milos Macourek, House of Lords of Kunštát, Brno (CZ), 1970
  • The World of Jan Saudek: Photographs, Jacques Baruch Gallery, Chicago (USA) 1979
  • Jan Saudek-Il teatro de la vita, Giuliana SCIM, Selezione d'Imagini, Milano (I), 1981
  • Story from Czechoslovakia, My Country, and Photographs by Jan Saudek, Aperture Nr. 89 (USA), 1982
  • The World of Jan Saudek, Anna Fárová, The Master Collection Book III, Rotovision, Geneve (SWISS) 1983
  • Images from Czechoslovakia, University of Iowa Museum of Art, Iowa City (USA) 1983
  • Story photo, Daniela Mrázková, Mlada Fronta, Prague (CZ) 1985
  • Jan Saudek-35 Jahre Photos / 35 Years of Photography, Manfred Heiting, Photography Forum Frankfurt, Frankfurt (D) 1986
  • 50 Jahre moderne Farbfotografie, Manfred Heiting, photokina, Cologne (D) 1986
  • Jan Saudek-200 Photographs 1953-1986, Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris (F) 1987
  • 20 Years of Czechoslovak Art: 1968-1988, Anne Baruch, Chicago (USA) 1988
  • The Second Israeli Photography Biennale, Museum of Art, Ein Harod (Israel) 1988
  • Jan Saudek-100 Fotografías 1953-1986, Primavera Fotografica, Barcelona (ESP) 1988
  • Jan Saudek-Monsieur Nicole (fashion catalog "Matsuda"), New York (USA) 1989.1991
  • Photographs Tschechoslowakische der Gegenwart, Edition Braus, Heidelberg (D), 1990
  • Jan Saudek-Life, Love, Death & Other Such Trifles, Art Unlimited, Amsterdam (NL), 1991
  • Jan Saudek-Theatre of life, Daniela Mrázková, Panorama, Prague (CZ) 1991
  • Jan Saudek-l'amour, VIS & VIS Nr. 10, Paris (Fr), 1992
  • Jan Saudek, Galerie Municipale du Chateau d'Eau, Toulouse (Fr), 1992
  • Photo La Collection de la FNAC, Calais des Estats de Bourgogne, Dijon (FR) 1993
  • Jan Saudek-life, love, death & other such trivia, Slovart, Praha (CZ), 1994
  • Jan Saudek-Jubilations and Obsessions, Rosbeek, Amsterdam (NL), 1995
  • Jan Saudek-Letter, Sarah Saudek, Prague (CZ), 1995
  • The World of Jan Saudek 1959-1995, Museum of Art, Olomouc (CZ), 1995
  • Jan Saudek 1895 Krišal Gallery, Geneve (SWISS), 1995
  • Photographie des 20. Jahrhunderts, Museum Ludwig, Taschen Verlag, Cologne (D) 1996
  • Security and search in Czech photography of the 90s, Vl. Birgus / Mir.Vojtěchovský, Kant, Praha CZ) 1996
  • The Photography Book, Phaidon Press Ltd., London (UK), 1997
  • Jan Saudek-Photographs 1987-1997, Taschen Verlag, Cologne (D), 1997
  • The Body in Contemporary Czech Photography, Vl. Birgus Macintosh Gallery, Glasgow (Scotland), 1997
  • Jan Saudek, Christiane Fricke, Taschen Verlag, Cologne (D), 1998
  • From Sudek to Saudek-Czech Photography in the 20th Century, The Eli Lemberger Museum of Photography, Tel-Hai (Israel), 1998
  • Masterpieces of Erotic Photography, Carlton Books, London (UK), 1998
  • Jan Saudek three-Love, BB Art, Prague (CZ), 1998
  • Zärtliche Betrachtung schöner Damen-aus der Sammlung Photo Fritz Gruber, Wienand Verlag, Cologne (D), 1998
  • Absolut Originale, Absolit Originale Collection, Stockholm (Sweden) 1999
  • Jan Saudek 1959-1999, Mennour Gallery, Paris (F) 1999
  • Jan Saudek Single-married divorced widower, Slovart, Praha (CZ), 2000
  • 20th Century Photography, Museum Ludwig, Cologne (D) 2001
  • Jan Saudek-Realities, Arena Edition, Santa Fe (USA) 2002
  • Czech and Slovak Photography 80s and 90s of the 20th century, the Art Museum, Olomouc (CZ) 2002
  • Absolut Generations, 50th Biennale, Venice (I) 2003
  • Dictionary of Czech and Slovak artists 1950-2004, Chagall Art Centre, Ostrava (CZ) 2004
  • SAUDEK, Daniela Mrázková, Slovart, Praha (CZ), 2005
  • The Best of Jan Saudek, Saudek.com, Prague (CZ), 2005
  • Chains of Love, Saudek.com, Prague (CZ), 2007
  • Evenings with a photographer, IDIF, Prague (CZ), 2007
  • ACP-learn creative shooting, Zoner Press, Brno (CZ), 2007
  • 2006/2007 National Theatre, Gallery, Prague (CZ), 2007
  • Jan Saudek [1] (1998, Taschen) ISBN 3-8228-7916-9
  • Pouta lásky (Chains of Love). [Saudek.com] ISBN 80-239-8225-7
  • Saudek. Prague: Slovart. ISBN 80-7209-727-X
  • Saudek, Jan: Ženatý, svobodný, rozvedený, vdovec. Prague: Slovart, 2000. ISBN 80-7209-701-6
  • Saudek, Jan: Národní divadlo 2006/07. National Theatre 2006/07 Season. Prague: Národní divadlo, 2007. ISBN 9788072582716


  • Jan Saudek: Prague Printemps (1990). (26-minute film by Jerome de Missolz about Saudek).
  • Jan Saudek: Bound by Passion (2008). (feature length film by Adolf Zika about Jan Saudek).


  1. ^ Asiedu, Dita (16 December 2001). "Saudek Brothers Documentary". Czech Radio. Retrieved 25 August 2012. 
  2. ^ Photo withdrawn after child prostitution claim

External links[edit]