Lot 96
  • 96

Jaromír Funke

50,000 - 70,000 USD
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  • Jaromír Funke
  • Gelatin silver print, photograph
mounted, signed and dated in pencil on the mount, the original glassine cover sheet attached to the reverse of the mount, 1929


Ludvík Souček, Jaromír Funke, Fotografie (Prague, 1970), p. 42

Antonín Dufek, Jaromír Funke, Pioneering Avant-Garde Photography (Brno, 1996), p. 102.

Antonín Dufek, Jaromír Funke (Prague, 2003), pl. 24

Josef Moucha, 'A Flash of Avant-Garde, or Jaromír Funke,' IMAGO 18, Summer 2004, p. 18


This masterfully printed photograph is on extremely heavy photographic paper with a slightly glossy surface and a pleasing warm-tonality. The depth of detail that Funke was able to realize in the dark areas of this print is quite impressive, as is his deft handling of the lighter values. The modulation and transitions of the print's wide range of tones are expertly executed. The print is essentially in excellent condition. There is noticeable age-appropriate silvering in the print's dark areas, most present on the print's periphery. When the print is examined in raking light, some original retouching can be seen. These areas—present in the upper and lower right quadrants, and near the center of the left edge—stand out in relief against the slightly silvered background in raking light. However, this original retouching is not obtrusive when the print is viewed straight-on under normal exhibition viewing conditions. The large mount is a thin buff-colored board measuring 19 1/4 by 17 1/2 inches. The mount shows only very faint and inconsequential soiling and age-darkening. The original glassine cover sheet is applied to the top edge of the reverse of the mount and can fold over the front to protect the photograph
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

The photograph offered here is from a series of images Funke began in 1927, called Abstraktní foto (Abstract Photo).  To make these images, Funke used overlapping sheets of mat board as a screen on which to project the shadows of objects placed on a windowsill.  Both formally rigorous and deftly executed, the images in this series, as Funke authority Matthew S. Witkovsky writes, "mark a culminating moment in photographic modernism" (Foto: Modernity in Central Europe, 1918-1945, p. 226). 

Like many photographers of his time, Funke progressed through the waning style of Pictorialism into a new type of photography that accepted fully both the freedoms and limitations of the camera, and that was not indebted for aesthetics or subject matter to other forms of art.  Funke's work from the early 1920s shows the photographer experimenting adventurously with the conventions of the still-life genre.  These studies are deliberate and methodical explorations of the opacity or translucence of his subjects, which included glass negatives, transparent cubes, bottles, bowls, and plates.  Funke's direction of the light in these images is deliberate and confident, and the reflections and shadows cast by his subjects are integral to their compositions. 

These studies led directly into the Abstraktní foto series, which expanded the still-life genre both aesthetically and conceptually.  In this series, Funke moved the subjects off-camera and concentrated instead upon the shadows they cast on shifting planes of mat board.  He may have used mirrors to direct and intensify the light.  In some of these studies, the objects are clearly recognized by their shadows (corked bottles appear frequently).  In others, such as the composition offered here, the shadows are less identifiable.  The present study stands out among the remarkable images in this group for its pronounced degree of abstraction, as well as for its vigorously kinetic composition. In this image, Funke displays not only his considerable gifts as a creator of complex and sophisticated compositions, but also his skills as a photographic craftsman. This picture depends, for its impact, upon Funke's deft handling of the light and dark areas, both of which contain a level of detail not easily achieved.  The modulation between light and dark is expertly executed, and the print stands as a significant achievement in both the art and craft of photography.

In Witkovsky's Jaromir Funke's Abstract Photo series of 1927-1929, History in the Making, to which this entry is indebted, he writes that extant prints from this series are rare: 'Nearly all of the seventeen arrangements discovered to date have yielded a unique print' (History of Photography, Autumn 2005, p. 228).  It is believed that no other print of this image has appeared at auction.