American, b. Prague, 1910 – 2009
Archive contact: Ruth Grunzweig Roth 212.838.9368 GrunzweigPhotography@Ymail.com
Vintage prints: Margit Erb, Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York City 212.334.0010 firstname.lastname@example.org
Bedrich Grunzweig was born in 1910 in Prague and grew up in Brno, Czechoslovakia. Following university studies and service in the Czech army, he took an administrative post in a sugar mill. In 1939, he escaped from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia with his first wife, Judith Winterstein. His grandmother, parents and older brother, Hans, were all murdered by the Nazis. Bedrich’s first photograph, made in 1926, was a portrait of Hans.
Arriving in the U.S., he settled permanently in New York City, whose architectural forms, visual excitement and relentless pace would inform and inspire his photography throughout his life. Following a job at the Czech Pavilion of the 1939 World’s Fair and service with the wartime Czech government-in-exile, he joined the newly formed United Nations where he worked until his retirement in 1974. In each case, he worked in the field of communications, media and public information. In 1961, he served for nine months in a leadership role at the UN peace-keeping operation in the Congo.
Since the 1940s, Bedrich Grunzweig had been photographing life in a wide range of locations, with a particular interest in his adopted hometown, New York City. His best known images include “Between Heaven and Earth,” a spectacular shot of a window cleaner at the United Nations building which won U.S. Camera magazine’s first prize in 1951, as well as being published in Popular Photography’s 1952 Annual and in the 1952 Annual of American Photography.
In 1964, he won the Saturday Review first prize for his photograph of architect Eero Saarinen’s ground breaking TWA Terminal at Kennedy Airport. In 1973 his work was exhibited at the solo show “Return to Prague: A Personal Sojourn” at the Jewish Museum in New York City and at the Koffler Centre for the Arts in Toronto.
After retirement from the UN, Grunzweig became adviser to International Center of Photography (ICP) founder and director, Cornell Capa, from 1974 to 1994. He worked with new photographers, curated photo exhibits and, in 1984, was invited by the ICP to exhibit a one-man show of his photos. Describing Grunzweig’s work, Cornell Capa said, “Through his life span, he has seen much. He has gentle humor, and great sensitivity to the human tragedy.”
Grunzweig returned to Prague, the city of his birth, three times between 1969 and 1983 and again in 1991 and in 1998. This last visit marked the opening of the one-man retrospective show “Between Heaven and Earth”, Grunzweig’s first exhibit in the city of his birth.
In his later years, Grunzweig had a solo show at New York’s Leica Gallery and a solo retrospective of his New York City photographs at John Stevenson Gallery. His photograph, “Home From Work” was featured on the exhibit poster for the 1998 retrospective “Eight Million Stories: 20th-Century New York Life in Prints and Photographs from the New York Public Library”. Grunzweig ‘s work continues to be represented by New York’s Howard Greenberg Gallery.
In addition to documenting life in New York City, Grunzweig traveled and photographed in diverse locations, including the American Rockies, Congo, Czech Republic, Israel, Vermont, Toronto, Mexico, and more.
His work can be found in the collections of numerous museums and institutions, including the New York Public Library, the United Nations Photography Archives, The Museum of Modem Art (New York-NYC), the Metropolitan Museum (NYC), the International Center of Photography (NYC), the Cooper-Hewitt Museum (NYC), the Seagram’s Photo Collection (NYC), the Library for the Performing Arts (NYC), the Jewish Museum (NYC), the Israel Museum (Jerusalem), the University of Haifa, the Museum of the Jewish Diaspora (Tel Aviv), and the Moravian Museum. He is listed in the Auer & Auer and George Eastman House databases.
Bedrich Grunzweig died on February 21, 2009, just short of his 99th birthday. He is survived by his wife Ann Roudebush Grunzweig, daughter Ruth Grunzweig Roth, grandsons S. Adam Roth and A. Daniel Roth and son-in-law, J. Lipa Roth.