Plzeňské sympozia

Taťána Součková – Pavel Scheufler

The Theatre and Light

pp. 221–228, summary pp. 228–229

The article observes one of the important aspects of the transformation of Czech theatrical practice in the 19th century, caused by the introduction of electrical lighting, namely the beginning of theatre photography. Its origin is tied to an ensemble of a studio type, which was formed on the occasion of the celebration of the 300th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth in 1864. In the rediscovered collection of photographs deposited in the theatre Department of the National Museum in Prague now, it has been possible, by comparison with a collection of photographs from the Museum of Czech Literature, to identify the photographers, the roles as well as some representatives from the costumed solemn procession. In the National theatre in Prague, reopened after the fire on 12 August 1881, the stage was provided with better amenities. Central heating was installed and gas lamps were replaced with electrical lighting. Still before the decision of the Committee for the Reestablishment of the National theatre, the excellent Czech electro-technician and inventor František Křižík offered a test of the lighting of the theatre space. The test was carried out in the building of the Provisional theatre on 8 September 1882 and questioned the sense of the electrical lighting of the stage. The high brightness of the arc lamps was the source of an unpleasant glare, cast contrasting shadows, and also the bluish hue of the light was evaluated negatively. The electrical illumination also showed the unsuitability of the old stage setting. Nevertheless, in 1882–1916, the intensity of the lighting in the areas of the theatre increased roughly three times. That enabled the first photographs directly from stage performance (probably in 1892), where the actors did not have to wait stiffly for the picture to be made. Electricity made it possible to perceive the atmosphere of the day and night differently, and photographic studios began to take advantage of light modelling. The first photo studio to rely exclusively on artificial light was established by Josef Posselt in Prague-Smi?Lchov in 1910. The shadow was becoming an important part of portraits and the photography stood on the threshold of the modern era.

Key words: Bohemian Lands, 19th century, cultural history, theatre, photography,


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