František Krátký (1851–1924) is one of the most important Czech
photographers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire period. His first
photograph is mentioned in 1880, and in 1900 he built a very
successful Photochemigraphic business in Kolín. Most of the
photographs in the exhibition are from his trip to Italy in
The exhibition, consisting of 60 enlargements of hand-colored
slides, will display a rare preserved photographic heritage. These
slides are miniatures with photographic faithfulness, because they
are based on black and white photographic slides (8.5 × 8.5 cm).
Such slides were rarely colored, because of the high degree of
precision and detail required. They were very popular before color
photography became common.
Who was František Krátký?
František Krátký was one of the most important Czech
photographers from the time of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He was
born 7 September 1851, in the small town of Sadská, where his
father, František Vojtěch Krátký, was a painter (of both
pictures and houses), as well as having a printing business.
The young František learned printing techniques from his father,
and studied at the Elementary School of the Prague Academy of
Graphic Arts. The first mention in the archives of the name
“Krátký”, as being a photographer in Kolín, comes from August
In addition to portrait work, he also photographed many
landscapes and historical attractions. His oldest known dated
historical photograph is from 1881. Krátký advocated the use of his
photographs as teaching aids, especially for teaching Czech
children about their own country. To give his pictures the greatest
possible impact, he developed the technique of
In April 1898, aged 47, he married 20-year-old Anna Pospíšilová
(Pic 1), after which, as a married man, he travelled less and
concentrated more on the publication of his earlier photographs.
Around 1900, he founded his photo-chemigraphic business on the
outskirts of Kolin. In 1913, eye trouble forced him to sell the
business, and to relinquish his studio. The studio was later used
by his son Jiří, born 1901.
František Krátký died in Kolín in May 1924, aged 72. Because of
the variety of his subjects, and the stories his photographs told,
Krátký was one of the few Czech photographers of the
Austro-Hungarian period who can truly be called “a European
No other professional photographer of his time travelled the
Czech and Moravian countryside as thoroughly as František Krátký.
Besides the Austro-Hungarian Empire, he photographed also in the
Balkans, Italy, Switzerland, Russia, Germany, France and Monaco. He
also published photographs from foreign countries, taken by other
photographers, for example Czech explorer, E. S. Vráz. He believed
that the character of a country is expressed by its people,
and so the focus of his interest was on the people, and not just
the historical places and buildings alone.
Most of the photographs in this exhibition date from his visit
to Italy in April to June, 1897. The trip can be reconstructed from
preserved letters he sent to his family: Florence – Rome – Naples –
Livorno – Nice – Genoa – Nice – Monaco – Genoa – Turin – Milan –
Verona (Pic 3). In June and July 1898, he took his next trip, to
the Balkans. From Mostar, he travelled to Sarajevo, and then from
Travnik to Zajce and on to Zagreb. He possibly made short trips to
Italy in the early 1900s, and he also visited Venice, which he had
bypassed on his first trip.
Hand-colored slides are a rare preserved photographic
heritage, from the time before color photography became popular.
They are miniature pictures, with photographic accuracy. Their base
is a black and white photographic slide (usually 85 x 85 mm).
Hand-colored photographs were rare even in their time, because they
had to be made with great precision and attention to detail, and
were often colored by trained graphic artists. Pictures chosen for
coloring were those which were considered exceptional for their
documentary or aesthetic value. And of course, because most of
Krátký’s pictures were stereo-photographs, the intensity and
shading of the coloring had to be identical on both pictures.
Some letters from Krátký's trip to Italy have been preserved,
where the photographer describes his adventures, troubles and
experiences. In a letter from Florence dated April 11 1897,
probably written to his parents, he writes, “I haven’t had
good luck here. I’ve had a very bad time, and I don’t
know how the photographs will turn out”. He sent most of his
photographs, both glass plate negatives and films, home to be
developed. He says, “In the evening I will develop some of
them. I can’t do any more now. I am sending a box of
films. Some of them are already developed, but they are all mixed
together, so my brother will need to open the box carefully, in the
In almost every letter, he is expresses his fears about how the
company at home is surviving. “How is the business going? Badly,
I fear. You don’t write to tell me if there is any work, or
even if we still have a business”. He was also worried about
the quality of his work. “I am still worried that I am
not doing everything correctly, because it is all so expensive.
Let’s hope it will be all right. I am using too many glass
plates, because I am not sure if there is enough time”. By
“time” he means the lighting conditions. “Time is a problem —
if it is not bright enough, then I am toiling uselessly for
a whole day”, he writes from Rome in another letter to his
parents. He continues, “I shall be here at least 4 weeks,
but possibly I may have to stay longer because there is
a lot ahead of me”. He also describes financial details of the
whole project, and it is clear he is trying to save as much money
as possible. From Rome on 16 April 1897, he writes, “Everything is
so dear. I am spending 2–3 franks only for the trams.
I pay 1.50 guldens per day for an assistant; for a room
also 1.50; every day I need 5 guldens for food, and for trams
up to 1.50. On average, that’s 6.50 guldens a day. But what
can I do? I can’t do it any cheaper”.
As well as the factual information, he also writes about how
lonely he feels. “If only I at least had someone I could
speak with”, he writes to an unknown friend. Another time, to his
parents, he says, “I hope that I will receive
a letter from you. I feel like an orphan. I don’t
know what you are doing, or how everything is going at home. It is
almost as if there is no one else in the world”. He was also
feeling tired. “And I am walking so much, I am wearing
out my feet, so soon I will get shorter”, he writes to
a friend. He was also tired from not sleeping enough.
“I am so exhausted, I can’t describe it. I go to
sleep at midnight, and often I am woken up by a neighbour
in a room next door, or from the opposite of the street. The
people here are so rude — how can it continue? They are wild and
strange people — they so easily start fighting, and they argue so
He also wrote some remarks about Italians. “They don’t have much
sense of hygiene. Italian women walk on the streets, and follow you
with flowers. But they don’t allow you to take photographs for
free. They want 2 or 3 lire (1 gulden). They are graceful, and
many women have nice figures. They have interesting postures, and
very proud faces”.
Stereo-photography is a special area of three-dimensional
photography, based on the principle of showing two pictures in such
a way that when they are viewed, a three-dimensional
effect is created. This photographic technique has been used since
Stereo-photography was initially achieved by taking two
photographs separately in sequence, using one camera with one lens.
Between exposures, the camera would be moved sideways, to the
distance corresponding to the distance between the viewer’s eyes.
To maintain the stereoscopic effect, it was necessary to precisely
preserve the orientation of the camera, and to make the photographs
quickly in sequence.
The most important development in stereo-photography was the
invention of cameras which allowed both photographs to be taken at
the same time. The first prototype of such a camera, built in
1854 by Johan Benjamin Dancer, had two lenses, and an internal
partition. While some cameras were made with a single shared
bellows, more commonly, such cameras were made with two bellows, so
that the stereoscopic camera looked like identical twins. The most
common size of negative was 8.5 × 17 cm.
The development of stereo-photography was very important in the
evolution of photography into a communication tool. In the
19th century, viewing of stereo-photographs was a very popular
home entertainment, and this in turn influenced the choice of
subjects being photographed. The most common subject for
stereoscopic photography was travel.
Stereo-photographs could be viewed using simple binoculars made
from card stock, or by using wooden boxes that were part of the
Today, it is difficult to imagine what it was like to be
travelling abroad at the end of the 19th century. Since then,
tourism has changed completely. We can get some idea of how much,
by reading early travel guides from people like Czech writer and
lawyer Jaroslav Mária. His book about Italy was published in 1925,
but was already in preparation at the time of Krátký’s trip there.
We have selected a few quotations from this book to guide you
through the exhibition. Let’s start with the author’s
“The art of travelling is difficult. Learning that art is paid
for by all kinds of sufferings and wasted money. Most travellers,
often young married couples, decide, “Let’s go to Italy”, and have
in a mind a sweet dream of tropic vegetation, palms, orange trees,
magnificent houses, beautiful collections, where you can just look,
and your mind and heart are full. It is almost funny to see the
disappointment of those poor souls, with their new dresses, and
their big luggage, where they have packed a lot of useless stuff
across the border, and they can’t tell the conductor where they are
going, or call a porter to carry the luggage. They have no idea
about differences in eateries, about special foods, and, of course,
no idea at all about the meaning and the value of the art that is
scattered across Italy.
For nearly a quarter of a century, I have been travelling in
Italy almost every year. I have paid blood money, and had many
difficulties for my studies. I want to briefly tell you my
— Jaroslav Maria, “Itálie”, 1925, p 7
Jaroslav Maria, 1840–1942
His real name was Jaroslav Mayer, of Jewish origin, born
February 24 1870 in Rakovník; and died November 8th 1942, in
Auschwitz concentration camp.
As a writer and dramatist, he wrote many provocative dramas and
novels – for example, from the justice environment: “Panstvo v
Taláru” (Gentry in Gowns), and “Váhy a meč” (Scales and Sword). In
his novels and lampoons, he drew scathing critical and satirical
pictures of contemporary Czech society – “Vojáci a diplomati”
(Soldiers and Diplomats), 1930, “Bankéři a proletáři” (Bankers and
Proletarians), 1934, and “Advokáti” (Lawyers), 1937. The most
beautiful moments of his life he spent in Italy, the country that
he knew so well, and that he loved, almost as his homeland.
Jaroslav Maria was born into a large family of jurists. He studied
in Hradec Kralové, and made his final exams in Prague, at the
Gymnasium, and at the Czech University. He worked as an accredited
clerk in Beroun from 1903–1908, and later, as a lawyer in Tábor.
During WWII, he was arrested in July 1942, and imprisoned in
Prague, then in Terezín, and finally in Auschwitz, where after
several months, he died of typhus.
— Jiří Kohout
“Tuscany is beautiful foothills country. It is
separated from Umbria by the Apennine mountains, and reaches down
to the Tyrrhenian Sea. It is roughly bounded by the towns of
Ravenna, Faenza, Pisa, Orvieto and Arrezzo. This blessed, bright
province is one large undulating orchard. From Fiesole at Florence,
it is possible to get a good idea of this great smiling garden,
where there are no brown fields or sandy deserts. Mostly, there are
various tones of sparkling green, cut by the grey sheen of the Arno
river, with white farmsteads, monasteries, churches, villages with
modest towers, and small towns. In the centre of all this is the
eternally beautiful (but just when seen from above) city of
Tuscany also has an inhospitable and gloomy
face. Not far beyond the capital, toward the sea, and close to
Siena, the landscape is more severe and taciturn. There where the
romance of Riviera ends, gradually begins a deadly belt of swamp
land, breathing out fumes. That’s the damned Maremms, following the
coast from Pisa to Rome. A view of these undulating uplands is
oppressive but imposing. Here lies the tragedy of land, once rich
and smiling, which for reasons yet unknown became sick. It breathes
doom, as though infected by leprosy, and concentrates itself in
hamlets, poor villages falling apart, and ancient cities, silent in
— Jaroslav Maria, “Itálie”, 1925, p 9
“Great joy and greater disappointment. The surrounds of the
Tuscan city are charming. The city is compressed into a valley,
rimmed by softly undulating heights, so appealing that I have never
seen hills so balanced and gently embracing the human ant-heap.
Rust-red roofs, imposing domes, lofty spires and the flow of the
winding, shiny river. Seen from above, the view is eternally
majestic. Closer up however, the city, disappoints. Homely,
unappealing buildings, neither old nor new, jostle in narrow dirty
streets. The left bank of the river Arno is appalling in its
ugliness. It is all poverty and dirt. A large city with many
houses, but few outstanding examples of the builder‘s art. Even the
cathedral and bell-tower disappoint. They are somber and
Only the Town Hall, heroic, somber, massive, majestic, with
battlements and a threatening tower, next to the open Logia dei
Lanzi, evokes respect and gives a clue as to how the town once had
been, but no longer is. The city has two charms – the surrounding
landscape, and the country‘s greatest art.”
— Jaroslav Maria, “Itálie”, 1925, p 15
A large rabbit-warren, built in terraces into a rocky slope, and
beautifully set in a bay of peaceful blue sea. Behind it rises the
bluish cone of Vesuvius, where a wisp of smoke ever trembles over
its summit. Rock ridges surround the city, always green, full of
old trees and clean, beautiful villas. From the sea rise misty
shapes of charming islands. There are many positive qualities to
praise. But in other ways, this is a crowded place, of dirt, smell
and noise. Nowhere can you escape. There are no artistically
appealing buildings. There is no tidy park, no shady avenue.
Sweltering heat, pungent smoke, flaking facades; all is shabby and
decrepit. Walking is difficult in the steep streets, with trams
only coming at hourly intervals. Then, when they do arrive, they
are overful, and whiz past, leaving you standing.
Beautiful from a distance – but Naples, I would’t die for!
— Jaroslav Maria, “Itálie”, 1925, p
“A sad and at times desert landscape defined
roughly by the towns of Padua, Ferrara, Ravena, Bologna, Modena,
Piazenza and Milan. Its banality, although sporadically fruitful,
animated just by fields, willows, olives, grapevine growing
everywhere and scorched grass. Also mosquitoes are blustering here.
Surprisingly, this area has a big importance in fine art.”
— Jaroslav Maria, “Itálie”, 1925, p 8
“Guard of the Apennines, a very nice, spacious
and airy town, typified by its archways and two prismatic shaped
towers, inclined awry to one to another, one long and one short.
Nearly nothing remains from the old medieval town. Bologna is a
good example of a modern provincial Italian town, of rather small
interest on the whole, but hiding here and there a precious artwork
— Jaroslav Maria, “Itálie”, 1925, p 15
8th exhibition of Šechtl and Voseček
Museum of Photography
The exhibition consists of 56 photographic prints prepared
digitally from original hand-colored stereoscopic slides. The
exhibition has been prepared by Pavel Scheufler and Šechtl and
Voseček Museum of Photography.
Co-workers on the exhibition: Mr Andrea Archangeli and Mr Paolo
Bonzini helped to identify photographs, Mrs Bumerlová and Mrs
Lánová corrected Czech texts, Miss Eva Hubičková, Marie Šechtlová
and Mr Jan Hubička organized the exhibition, and brought it into
being, Miss Eva Hubičková corrected and extended original František
Krátký's captions, Mr Jiří Kohout wrote poster about Jaroslav
Maria, Mrs Kateřina Scheuflerová digitally retouched the
photographs and prepared them for print, Škrla family provided a
home for the exhibition, Mr John Titchener and Mrs Eleanor Schlee
translated texts into English and proved valuable feedback
significantly improving quality of the captions, Mr Jakub Troják
designed typography for invitation cards, captions and posters.
The photographs on poster on stereophotography are made
available by US Library of Congress, portrait of Jaroslav Maria by
Hussite Museum, Tábor. Thank you!
Part of photographs from exhibition is available on-line on the
address http://www.scheufler.cz in the
section with exhibitions.