Miroslav Tichy (1937-2011)
Female Portrait, Ink on paper c.1950's
Provenance: with signed certificate from Jana Hebranova, Tichy's neighbour and friend and authority on his work.
Although Tichý is regarded today as an outsider artist because of his unconventional approach to photography, he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague. After the Communist takeover of Czechoslovakia in 1948, students at the Academy were required to work in the Socialist mode, drawing workers in overalls rather than female models. Tichý refused, stopped working and left the Academy. He was then required to complete his compulsory military service.
When he returned to his hometown Kyjov, he lived with his parents on a small disability pension, and painted and drew for himself in his own style. The Communist regime in its paranoia saw the independent Tichý as a dissident and kept him under surveillance. In the 1960s he began to disregard his personal appearance, wearing a ragged suit and letting his unkempt hair and beard grow long. At about this time he began to wander around town with an intentionally imperfect homemade camera, taking covert photographs of local women.
Following the 1968 Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia, private property was nationalized. In 1972 Tichy was evicted from his studio and his work thrown into the street. He stopped drawing and painting and concentrated only on photography, working in the disorderly conditions of his home. Of this transition, he says, "The paintings were already painted, the drawings drawn. What was I supposed to do? I looked for new media. With the help of photography I saw everything in a new light. It was a new world."In 1985, Tichý stopped making his photographs and again concentrated on drawing. His non-photographic body of work includes 100 to 200 oil paintings and a vast number of drawings. As with his photographs, in the past he destroyed an unknown number of such works.
As most of the artistic attention has been focused on Tichý’s photographs, his drawings have been somewhat overlooked, they do have a relationship to his photographs, the covert photos accidental compositions with parts of the figure cut out of the photo are seen also in his drawings.
In 1981, Roman Buxbaum, a former neighbour and childhood friend returned from exile in Switzerland. His family had long been owners of paintings and drawings by Tichý, and now Buxbaum discovered the photographic work, which had been kept a secret. Buxbaum helped catalogue the photographs and as part of Buxbaum's conservation efforts, he made a documentary about the artist's work and life, Miroslav Tichý: Tarzan Retired (2004).
Tichý's work was largely unknown until Buxbaum's collection of his photographs was shown at the 2004 Biennial of Contemporary Art in Seville. Tichý's work won the Rencontres d'Arles 2005 New Discovery Award, and Buxbaum set up the Tichý Oceán Foundation on behalf of Tichý, then 77, to preserve and exhibit his work. In 2005, he had a major retrospective at the Kunsthaus in Zurich, another at the Pompidou Centre in 2008. In February 2010, Tichý had a solo show at the International Center of Photography in New York.