Beautiful Obscene

about Jan Saudek

Maternity, exhibitionism, fetishism or obscenity, everything can deal with beauty if you know the rules and the potential of your means. Jan Saudek is one of those with a clear strong vision of their art concept.

Best-known for his hand-tinted portrayal of painterly dream worlds, often inhabited by nude or semi-nude figures surrounded by bare plaster walls or painted backdrops, Jan frequently re-uses identical elements — for instance, a clouded sky or a view of Prague’s Charles Bridge — in order to celebrate his mytography. In this they echo the studio and tableaux works of mid nineteenth century erotic photographers, as well as the works of the painter Balthus, and of Bernard Faucon.

His early art photography is noted for its evocation of childhood. His later works often portrayed the evolution from child to adult — re-photographing the same composition/pose, and with the same subjects, over many years. Religious motifs or the ambiguity between man and woman have also been some of his recurring themes.




Born in 1935, in Prague, in 1949, Jan received his first camera, a Kodak Baby Brownie, and by 1952, after apprenticing with a photographer, began working in a print shop where he stayed until 1983. He took to hand tinting his images with watercolour pigments the moment his clients began to get sick of black and white. Colour film is hard to obtain and process, so Jan chose to rely on his painting ability.

Due to the sensitive and erotic nature of his work, he will soon become the focus of censorship attempts. Despite growing international acclaim, especially in North America, he had to wait many decades before he was to be formally recognised in his own country. But while he was ostracised by the powers that be, he became something of a cult figure among his fellow photographers and drew increasing admiration from a younger generation of Czech art lovers.

One such fan was Sára Smesna — Saudková — who, becoming aware of Jan’s photographs while at university, was immediately intrigued. Shortly after graduating she wrote to the artist to ask if they might meet. They did so in 1991 when Sara was 24 and Jan 56. From then on their lives variously entwined as Sara became first lover, muse and photographer’s assistant; later his manager, wife to his son Samuel. Today they share the same website.




1 Commento su Beautiful Obscene

  1. It’s fucking great


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