Sutnar’s Nudes Revisited

Tomáš Vlček’s Ladislav Sutnar: Venus (published by the Sutnar Family and Archive of the Ladislav Sutnar Faculty of Design and Art, University of West Bohemia) is a welcome, if sometimes philosophical, analysis of the work done at the end of Sutnar’s life.

“In addition to graphic design, [Sutnar] now devoted a considerable amount of time to his own free painting and graphic work,” writes Vlček. “However while Sutnar’s graphic design work led him to become a leading figure in 20th-century American culture, his free graphic and painting work did not resonate nearly as much during its time. Or indeed for a long time afterwards, in such a way as to indicate broader and deeper connections between Sutnar’s creative thinking and America.”

 

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Although accused of following the Pop artists (notably Tom Wesselman, above), “Sutnar’s path to his Venuses started deep in the European Avant Garde, in the characteristic attempts to liberate everything, including the human body, together with radical tendencies in women’s emancipation and efforts to find new possibilities for mass communication.”

Sutnar came to New York during the opening of the 1939 World’s Fair, where Dali’s Dream of Venus pavilion, filled with sexual fetishism, opened Sutnar’s eyes to the overt eroticism used in selling goods. One of Vlček‘s points is that there was a political underpinning that was part and parcel of his American transplantation. His observations in this work included how sex was promoted through mass media and how new values in 20th century art reflected the shift in mores.

 

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Sutnar clipped images from various erotic and girly magazines as the basis for the Venus paintings (shown above). Vlček‘s small but important book is generous in showing these original sources provided by Radoslav Sutnar and other sources.


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