Karel Novák

1875–1950

Karel (Carol) Novák (Czech, 1875–1950), a native of south Bohemia, is considered to be one of the founding fathers of modern Czech photography. His photographs, mostly landscapes and portraits, are informed by the poetics of symbolism. Novák studied with Hans Lenhard at the prestigious Graphische Lehr- und Versuchsanstalt (Graphical Teaching and Experimental Institute) in Vienna. In 1905 he opened his own photo-studio in Bremen. He became a professor at the Graphische Lehr- und Versuchsanstalt in Vienna in 1910, the only school for photography in the Austro-Hungarian Empire at that time. Josef Anton Trčka and Rudolf Koppitz were among his students. In 1919, when the State Graphics Art School opened in Prague, Novák was appointed professor for photography. A specialized course in photography was first offered at his instigation in 1921, run by Novák himself. One of his first students in Prague, between 1922 and 1924, was Josef Sudek. Novák’s teaching gradually eclipsed his photography, but his pedagogical impact was considerable. He retired from his professorship in 1935, succeeded by Jaromír Funke.