Women Designing

Edith Tudor Hart (1908-1973)

An exhibition board showcasing Edith Tudor HartEdith Suschitzky was born in Vienna. At secondary shcool she was involved in the organisation od socialist students. She wished to become a kindergarten teacher and trained in the Montessori method in schools in Vienna and London. In 1929 Suschitzky went to study photography at the Bauhaus, under the tuition of Walter Peterhans. On her return to Vienna, she began to photograph the victims of the economic depression and had her work published in left-wing newspapers and magazines. At the same time she had to take work in a commercial studio in order to support herself financially.

In 1933 Suschitzky married Alexander Tudor Hart, a British doctor and they moved to London, where he had his practice in a working class district. This provided further subjects for Edith Tudor Hart to photograph. She became a member of the Artists International Association, founded in 1934, and the Workers’ Camera Club and participated in exhibitions organised by them. When her husband transferred his practice to South Wales to work with the miners and steelworkers, Tudor Hart photographed people suffering from the effects of hunger and unemployment. Her photographs began to be accepted by British magazines and newspapers, such as ‘The News Chronicle’, ‘Picture Post’, ‘Lilliput’ and ‘Design For Today’. She provided illustrations for Margery Spring Rice’s book ‘Working Class Wives’ published in 1939.

At the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, Alexander Tudor Hart went to Spain as a surgeon. Edith Tudor Hart remained in London, working as a photographer and supporting a small mentally handicapped son. This continued after the breakup of her marriage. During the Second World War she had to give up her own studio and work from home and for a commercial firm. Immediately after the war, Edith Tudor Hart suffered a mental breakdown, took a job as a housekeeper, and almost gave up photography altogether. Those photographs which she did take were almost exclusively of children, including those for a book ‘Moving and Growing’, published by the Ministry of Education in the 1950s.

The last part of her life Edith tudor Hart spent as an antiques dealer in Brighton, although she continued to take photographs as a hobby. Her personal history reflects the difficulties faced by countless other women struggling to support themselves and their families on their own. In her case, these difficulties were compounded by the precariousness of trying to make a living as a photographer. She regarded her camera as a tool with which to record social and political injustice. Her documentary photography is well regarded by photographic historians, but the demise of photo-reportage, combined with her personal circumstance, meant that her career did not develop after its promising start.

Image captions left to right from the top
1. Photograph of Edith Tudor Hart in Vienna, 1928.
2. Cover photograph by Edith Tudor Hart for ‘Design for Today’, February 1934.
3. Illustrations by Edith Tudor Hart for Margery Spring Rice’s book ‘Working Class Wives’, published in 1939 (3 images).
4. Collage illustration by Edith Tudor Hart for ‘Design for Today’, August 1934. This was to show the aspects of speed and what symbolic expression could be achieved through the art of collage. Humour played a part in the design, alongside the dramatic contrast of ideas about time, speed, sport and clothes.

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Sirpa Kutilainen • November 12, 2015

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