Since the beginning of April is Moravian Gallery hosting a monographic exhibition presenting the work of a significant Vienna photographer Rudolf Koppitz(1884-1936), born in Schreiberseifen near Bruntál, in their Pražák Palace premises. In his time well recognized, later forgot for a lack of inventiveness is Rudolf Koppitz today rising again and his vivid and precise photographic compositions are speaking to increasingly wider audience. Credit for Koppitz „rediscovery“ goes greatly to historian Monika Faber, who is intensely dedicated to Koppitz work, published his monograph and a catalogue comprising his lifelong work accompanying also this exhibition. Monika Faber honoured Moravian Gallery by attending the opening giving a foreword speech and offering a commented visit the next day. The exhibition taking place in the whole lower floor of the Pražák Palace building is implemented by cooperation of Moravian Gallery and Vienna institute Bonartes administrating the estate of Rudolf Koppitz.
foto: David Suchar
The exhibition itself is providing a solid overview of Koppitz life and art path and is divided regarding chronology and also theme. Visitor can among other thing take a look at photographs of a more private nature and of course is provided with basic dates. The trained photographer at first self-employed, takes a risky step at the age of 28 and travels to Vienna to study at the Graphische Institut (Graphical Institute), where he works with various types of printing using pigments and is flirting with symbolism. The exhibition shows also an interesting comparison with his schoolmate J. A. Trčka and resembles contemporary influences. Generally a very clearly divided concept of the exhibition shows photography from the WWI. times, portraits, works related to dance and theatre, photographs influenced by the philosophy of Freikörperkultur ("Free Body Culture"), which characterizes Koppitz work overall, and of course Heimat photography. Although nowadays we could easily include heimat photography into the documentaries, it is clearly distinctive by its patriotic and towards culture admiring connotations right at first sight. I personally appreciate the original format, which can sometimes be a disadvantage like with the small-format wartime photographs for example, but ultimately it emphasizes authenticity. A special spotlight is given to the famous Motion study (Bewegungsstudie) and also strategically located are the iconic self-portrait in nature or the photograph of mother and child, in its time a very broadly appreciated work. The exhibition is basically trying to apprise the visitor with Rudolf Koppitz and the videos comprising memories of his 2 students from the times when he was a professor at the Graphische are supporting it. Not being anyhow particularly informative or positive towards Koppitz they still add to the context a lot. The authors of exhibition did not omit Anna Koppitz, the widow after Rudolf Koppitz, who by her activities after her husband's death contributed to the nationalist reinterpretation of many of his works.
Rudolf Koppitz as a great sports lover and a beauty devotee worked intensely with nudity whether in nature or studio and had no problem exposing his family or himself. It is this aspect of his work that can be apprehended controversially, but it is necessary to remark that although his work is riddled with visual lyrics the subject is perceived quite impersonally almost on the verge of transformation into just an object and the mission is simply a "beautiful photograph". This approach was also criticized by the rising avant-garde, which was trying to overcome among other also this attitude. His later works capturing Tyrolean and Šokci people in their natural environment are turned more towards psychology and distinction, yet there is still a visible retraction and the primary styling subjected to the chosen symbols.
Koppitz work can be summarized as a typical contemporary tact for beauty and fluent lines, the zeal for visual perfection, love and admiration towards nature and expression of a certain pride of men. Rudolf Koppitz was not an innovator, more likely a celebrated representative of the current tradition. Nevertheless his precisely constructed compositions are worth a visit of this exhibition as an edifying insight into the history of photography.