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Josef Sudek, Untitled (3 Beer Glasses), ca. 1950

Jaromir Funke Couple Boating, Prague ca. 1920

Frantisek Drtikol, 10 Modernist Nudes portfolio

Art Market Watch

May 17, 2011 

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The work of modernist Czech photographers -- Josef Sudek, Jaromir Funke and Frantisek Drtikol, among others -- is important because it's so transitional, demonstrating the esthetic change during the first half of the 20th century from atmospheric, Pictorialist imagery to spare and sharp Modernism. Sometimes, individual pictures reflect both sensibilities at once.

Artnet Auctions presents over 70 lots of modernist Czech photography in its new online auction, titled "Czech Photography," which ends tomorrow, May 18, 2011. Collectors, it's your last chance for these choice photos.

The auction includes a large group of photos by Josef Sudek (1896-1976). The top lot is a rare and very beautiful pigment print from ca. 1950, depicting three glasses of beer, made using the hand-made process that makes the white highlights look drawn on (the jpg images barely do the photograph justice). The presale estimate is $60,000-$80,000, and the bidding starts at $50,000 .

Sudek's prices at auction have seen a big surge in the last six months, as several collectors pursue his work -- perhaps in anticipation of a survey show planned by the Art Gallery of Ontario. At Sotheby's Paris in November, a Sudek pigment print from 1952 -- not unlike the one here -- sold for $312,000, while still another, more abstract photo went for a $410,000, a new record for the artist.

The Artnet Auction sale also includes several tiny contact prints by Sudek from 1914, taken from an album that the photographer kept as an inventory of his negatives. Bidding on these works, which measure only 1.5 x 2 in., begins at only $1,000.

A month ago, an abstract photograph by Jaromir Funke (1896-1945) also hit a new auction high for the artist, selling for $350,500. In the Artnet Auctions sale is a gelatin silver print from ca. 1920, with a distinct Pictorialist feel, of a couple in a canoe under some leafy branches. The starting bid on this photograph, which is 70 years old, is $5,000.

Another lot worth noting is a portfolio of ten modernist nudes, taken in ca. 1925 and printed in 2003, by the photographer Frantisek Drtikol (1883-1961). Icons of an early modernist sensibility, the photos pose both male and female nudes alongside geometric shapes and shadows. The presale estimate for the lot is $20,000-$25,000.

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