Between 1900 and 1935, Frantisek Drtikol reshaped the genre of classical nude photography. In 1910, he opened a studio in Prague and became one of the most prominent portraitists in the city. In his early work, he synthesized aspects of pictorialism and symbolism, shifting around 1924 to favor the geometric forms of Futurism, Cubism and the Bauhaus, the radical lighting of silent film, and the dramatic poses of modern dance. Influenced by cubism and constructivism, Drtikol began using geometric wooden props in his photographs to emphasize the tension of the body in motion.
The peak of Drtikol’s career was from 1927 to 1929, when many of his masterpieces were created. Eroticism assumed an ever-important role in his nudes, which were quite bold for the time, showing the naked body with surprising naturalness and beauty. Around 1930, Frantisek Drtikol stopped using live models, preferring instead the control of using paper cut-outs of nude silhouettes, in a period he called “photopurism.” In 1935 Drtikol sold his studio, devoting himself to painting and the study of Buddhist philosophy.
In the 1920s and 30s, Drtikol received significant awards at international photo salons, and his work was the subject of two monographs, Le nus de Drtikol in 1929 and Žena ve světle (Woman in the Light) in 1938. His work has undergone a period of rediscovery since his death, beginning in 1977 with the publication of a portfolio of Drtikol’s work by the George Eastman House, and today there are over a dozen monographs of his work, including the only monograph focusing on his modernist work published by the Robert Koch Gallery. In 1942, a large body of Drtikol’s photographs and materials were given to the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague, and today his work is included in such prestigious international collections as the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Museum Orsay, Paris, and the Chicago Art Institute.