Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Rudolf Koppitz

 Rudolf Koppitz, The Brothers, 1928

Rudolf Koppitz (1884-1936) was born into a rural Protestant family near Freudenthal, in what is today Bruntál in the Czech Republic. Koppitz began training for his career as a photographer in 1897 under Robert Rotter from Bruntál. He later continued his work in small commercial studios as a contract photographer but in 1912, he left professional life to go back to school to continue his studies at the Graphische Lehr- und Versuchsanstalt, "Institute for Teaching and Research in Graphic Arts" in Vienna. 

Rudolf Koppitz, Composition, 1925
Koppitz's early works were marked by the influence of his teacher, the Czech Symbolist photographer Karel Novák, and by the style of the Viennese Secession. While working in Vienna early in his career, Koppitz photographed many of the picturesque aspects of the city - St. Stephen's Cathedral, Karl's Church - and traveled to photograph Hungarian villages, fishing boats near Delft, views of Dresden and alpine landscapes. 

Rudolf Koppitz, Nude Study, 1927
His time at the Institute was interrupted by the First World War in which Koppitz found himself putting his talents to use as an aerial reconnaissance photographer. After the war, Koppitz returned to the Institute to teach photography where in 1923 he took the nude self-portrait, In the Bosom of Nature, in which he framed himself by tree trunks, rocks, snowy mountains, and is posed to convey a dreamlike harmony reminiscent of a symbolist painting.

 Rudolf Koppitz, In the Bosom of Nature, 1923

Koppitz's nude self-portraits fascinated his contemporaries as much as they do viewers today. The photographs were taken out of doors - high in the mountains of the Alps or at the seashore - with the assistance of his wife, Anna. Often symbolic, his images reflected the enthusiasm for nature that Koppitz nurtured throughout his life. This love of nature also influenced his late work, his portrayal of peasant life in Tyrol that culminated in the vast 1936 exhibition of 500 photographs called "Land und Leute" (Country and People). 

Rudolf Koppitz, Heavy Burden, Austria, 1930

In 1925 Koppitz created his masterpiece, Bewegungsstudie, "Motion Study" in which he photographed dancers from the Vienna State Opera. the nude dancer is probably the Russian ballet dancer and choreographer, Tatyana Gsovsky.

 Rudolf Koppitz, Bewegungsstudie (Motion Study), 1925

Koppitz's photographs were shown in no less than fourteen exhibitions in the United States from 1926 through 1930, most importantly the Pittsburgh Salons of 1926, 1927, and 1928. This highly regarded annual exhibition at the Carnegie Museum of Art featured not only prominent American photographers, but also Europeans including Koppitz, Josef Sudek, Jaromir Funke, Frantisek Drtikol, and Madame D'Ora. Koppitz was an elected associate members of this salon, where Bewegungsstudie, along with many other of his works, was exhibited.

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