Outsider Photographer Dies


Miroslav Tichý, a largely self-taught photographer whose works drew international acclaim in the past few years, died, age 84, at his home in Kyjov in the Czech Republic on April 12. The artist achieved recognition for his haunting and voyeuristic, soft-focus photographs of women in his hometown. “I am pleased that his photographs were celebrated during his lifetime and caught the art world and photography world by surprise,” New York dealer Howard Greenberg told A.i.A. He has represented Tichý in the U.S. for the past three years.

From the mid-’60s to the mid-’80s, Tichý made close to a hundred photographs each day using homemade cameras fashioned from toilet paper rolls, cardboard boxes, thread-spools, and even bottle caps.

Tichý was a painter until the 1950s when he dropped out of studies at the Academy of Arts in Prague. There, he had studied painting under Jan Zelibsky. Subsequently, he briefly joined the Brno Five, a group painters who refused to comply with the social-realist style mandated in postwar communist Czechoslovakia. He made oil paintings in a manner reminiscent of German expressionism, using deep colors, thick black lines in portraits and landscapes. He abandoned painting for photography upon his return to Kyjov from Prague in 1957 after suffering a mental collapse. Over the course of his life he spent a total of seven years in a Czechoslovakian prison on specious charges of being a subversive.

In 2004, curator Harald Szeemann exhibited a selection of Tichý’s prints at the Seville Biennial. The following year the artist won the “New Discovery Award” at the Recontres D’Arles photography fair. Last year, the International Center of Photography in New York organized the only museum exhibition in North America devoted to Tichý’s work. The retrospective included 188 prints and a catalogue. ICP Chief Curator Brian Wallis, who organized the exhibition, told A.i.A. “[Tichý] opposed modernist infatuation with newness and progress, and obsessively returned to his preferred subject, the female form. The intensity, frequency, and regularity with which he revisited this subject reveals a unique and distinctly personal approach to photography. Decades later, his work remains fresh and vibrant, and his death is experienced as a profound loss.”