Full-text resources of CEJSH and other databases are now available in the new Library of Science.
Visit https://bibliotekanauki.pl



2004 | 52 | 6 | 518-536

Article title



Title variants

Languages of publication



The article treats the development and impact of the dialogue between the photographer Josef Sudek and the painter Emil Filla. Sudek was referred to by some of his friends as an 'alchemist'. In a review in 1947, Frantisek Kovárna described Emil Filla as a 'magician'. Filla became acquainted with Josef Sudek sometime in the 1920s, probably through his editorial work for the journal 'Volné smery' (Free Directions). Filla built up an extensive archive of Sudek's reproductions of his own paintings. 'Chaos' was one of the favourite concepts that Sudek employed in analysing his photography. It was connected with the 'principle of uncertainty' that Anna Fárová has studied as the common denominator in all of Sudek's works. The concept of 'chaos' was most in evidence in Sudek's 'Labyrinth' cycles, strange and mysterious still lifes. Chaos was another expression of the confusion that fascinated Sudek as early as the photographs of St Vitus (1924-1928). Metamorphosis, inner transformation, uncertainty - these were also characteristic of Filla's cubist paintings. Filla had a tendency to describe artwork in terms of 'nternal expansiveness', 'dramatic explosiveness', and 'charged energy'. Elsewhere in Filla's texts, the concept of chaos is suggested by the term 'cacophony'. Filla considered it to be an essential part of language, including the language of art. In 1933, an exhibition of Filla's drawings was held in the 'Krásná jizba' (Beautiful Room) in Prague. Josef Sudek, who had had his first exhibition there in 1932, probably helped Filla get a show in the DP sales room. One of the collections that Sudek showed in his first exhibition in 'Krásná jizba' was the set of photographs taken of the completion of St Vitus Cathedral in Prague. Sudek interpreted the interiors of the church as still lifes, with a sort of surrealist disorder. Some of Sudek's photographs have a quality that one might call a cubist representation of space. This principle was the foundation of what Sudek called 'imaginary space'. The unified, perspectival space as seen through a peep-hole was disturbed by one, or sometimes a series of interspaces that had a separate meaning and impact. Even back then, Sudek was undoubtedly familiar with Filla's still lifes, which were examples of the construction of a magical space. Introducing 'chaos' into a photograph did not mean just creating a bizarre arrangement of things and objects, Sudek's characteristic 'mess', but also destabilising the point of view of the section photographed. The interpretation of the 'cubist' principle is even more obvious in Sudek's unique series 'Glass Labyrinths' (1963-1972). There he used glass plates or mirrors to create a multitude of spaces with the help of reflections and views of things. In the 1930s, but especially after his return from Buchenwald and after the renewed contact at the end of the 1940s, Filla initiated Sudek into the mysteries of cubist and Dutch still lifes, into questions of the origin of still lifes and the role of Caravaggio, about whom he published a theoretical study (The Mission of Caravaggio, 1925). Hence Sudek's photograph 'Still Life after Caravaggio' (1956). In 1948, Sudek visited Filla at the Peruc Chateau in the 'Ceské stredohori' (Bohemian Upland), which was loaned to Filla as a residence by the Czechoslovak state after his return from the Buchenwald concentration camp. At the beginning of the 1950s, Sudek inspired Filla to work on horizontal, elongated landscape drawings of the 'Ceské stredohori', which Sudek photographed using a panoramic camera. Sudek's cycle 'Memories' was also started at Peruc. Like Sudek in 'Memories', Filla in his paintings, perhaps under the impression of the poetic souvenirs of the photographer, also dwelt on beauty, the past and, above all, Holland, where he had lived in 1914-1920. What connected Sudek and Filla was a common sense of the intuitiveness of the creative process.









Physical description

Document type



  • V. Lahoda, Institute of Art History, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Husova 4, 110 00 Prague 1, Czech Republic


Document Type

Publication order reference


CEJSH db identifier

YADDA identifier

JavaScript is turned off in your web browser. Turn it on to take full advantage of this site, then refresh the page.