Down and out in Vienna and London: Edith Tudor-Hart photography goes on show at Scottish National Portrait Gallery


A retrospective of one of the most iconic photographers in Britain during the 1930s and 1940s opens this Saturday 2 March at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

Born in Vienna, Edith Tudor-Hart’s photographs deals with many of the major social issues of her day, including poverty, unemployment and slum housing. Her work records the politically-charged atmosphere of inter-war Vienna and Britain during the Great Slump of the 1930s. After 1945 Tudor-Hart concentrated on questions of child welfare, producing poignant and shocking imagery of children of her era.

Tudor-Hart’s life story as a photographer is tied to the great political upheavals of the twentieth century. Born Edith Suschitzky in Vienna in 1908, she grew up in radical Jewish circles in a city ravaged by the impact of the First World War. Her childhood was dominated by social issues in a culture acutely aware of the impact of the Russian Revolution.

After training as a Montessori teacher, she studied photography at the Bauhaus in Dessau and pursued a career as a photojournalist. However, her life was turned upside down in May 1933 when she was arrested while working as an agent for the Communist Party of Austria. She escaped long-term imprisonment by marrying an English doctor, Alexander Tudor-Hart, and was exiled to London shortly afterwards.

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Edith Tudor-Hart: In the Shadow of Tyranny is at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery from 2 March to 26 May.