Josef Sudek, ‘Portrait of Sudek's Lover, Milena Vildova’, 1942/1952, Contemporary Works/Vintage Works

This is perhaps Sudek's most important portrait in a very rare pigment print. Sudek's assistant, Jan Strimpl, has written on the verso of the paper mat in pencil: "Original photo by Josef Sudek from my collection." Sudek has also written some notations in pencil on the back of the actual print.

Milena Vildova was a dancer and actress living in Prague who sometimes attended the musical evenings Sudek hosted in his studio to listen to recordings of his favorite classical composers. She became Sudek's lover from the 1940s into at least the early 60s. This print, which was made ten years after the image was made, is the earliest print from this series, so it is considered to be a "vintage" print.

See: Farova, Josef Sudek, Poet of Prague, A Photographer's Life, (Aperture, 1990), p.47; Forova, Josef Sudek: The Pigment Prints, 1947-1954, (Cinubia, Los Angeles, 1994) and Farova, Josef Sudek: Sixty Pigment Prints (Salander-O'Reilly Gallery, New York, 1998), no.41, n.p.; Maia-Mari Sutnik (ed.), Josef Sudek: The Legacy of a Deeper Vision, (Hirmer, Munich, 2012), p.209. For flopped and other variants, see: Josef Sudek, Portraits, (Torst 2007), cover image and pl.81; Lubomir Linhart, Josef Sudek (SNKLHU, Prague, 1956), p.150.

photographer to Jan Strimpl, who was Sudek's assistant.

About Josef Sudek

His life shaped and interrupted by two World Wars, Josef Sudek is among the Czech Republic’s leading 20th-century photographers. Working mostly alone, he roamed the streets of Prague and the surrounding areas with a large-format camera. The photographer produced exquisite, exacting black-and-white prints of cityscapes and landscapes, evocative still lifes, and vignettes glimpsed through his studio window. Sudek initially embarked on a bookbinding career but was derailed by the loss of his right arm while serving in World War One. During his recuperation, he photographed his fellow convalescents, and after his discharge, Sudek enrolled in photography courses and began supporting himself with commercial commissions. The Nazi occupation of Prague during World War Two shifted his course once again. Sudek gave up commercial work to focus on his own vision, which he pursued until the end of his life.

Czech, 1896-1976