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Franz RontagFranz Rontag, an amateur photographer, was born on Sep. 3rd, 1897, when the rapid technological development was changing the world. His birthplace being Vienna, the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, he was most likely exposed to all the wonders this era called “Jahrhundertwende” was to produce, among others the invention of colour photography.
He received a 3-year technical training as an apprentice in Vienna’s First Engineering Works and worked as a metalworker in the K&K (imperial) Artillery Factory from where he was drafted to serve in W.W. I as late as 1918. He participated in the Carynthian national resistance fight of 1919 and was awarded a medal for bravery.
Franz Rontag held various jobs as a machine fitter in the metal manufacturing industry and became production manager in a firm producing surgical instruments.
His first photographs (black & white) dated in the mid-twenties, when he was about 28 years old, present Dutch motifs, which indicates that he had a job in Holland for several years.
Franz Rontag’s photographic achievements were first mentioned when he was awarded a diploma of recognition and praise for artistic excellency in the first “JUSTO-PHOT Competition” in 1930 where he showed some black-and-white pictures.
Recognition continued and he started his activity as a lecturer at “URANIA”, the People’s University of Vienna, in 1931 teaching advanced amateur photography classes: techniques and practice of photography and eventually the particular technique of the bromoil-transfer and uvachrome. Franz Rontag continued teaching photography until 1937 and resumed his personal activity after WWII, concentrating on modern black-&-white photography, however.
The 3rd International Photographic Exhibition in Vienna of 1934 testified his “extraordinary achievements” and put him side by side among photographers of whom some names such as that of Franz Katolicky and Rudolf Koppitz may be very familiar to photographers and collectors of vintage photographs.
Besides a number of black-&-white photographs which Rontag exhibited, he mainly caught the attention of the juries with his 3- or 4-colour bromoil transfers and colour stereo transparencies.
In spring 1936 Franz Rontag lectured on the “fascination of colour photography“. A series of letters establishes the fact that he was invited to have his colour-bromoil-transfers and transparencies exhibited in London and Cambridge. After having seen these, M.W. Zürcher (Honorary Technical Advisor of the Cambridge University Camera Club) suggested that he should have his “obviously new process”, which avoids grain, patented, which Rontag had not, however.
It seems to be the invention of the Uvachrome process and the general economic and political situation before the Second World War which kept Franz Rontag from producing more bromoil-transfers, although he occasionally resumed his activity in this field as late as 1973 when re-inked and transferred old takes.
In 1937 to 1942 he worked as an engineer and instructor with C,P. Görtz, the famous firm producing optical instruments, where his hobby and work seemed to coincide.
He married Marie Mössler in 1939. In 1942 he was drafted to serve at the Russian front where he was taken prisoner at the end of the war. He was able to escape from a Russian transport of prisoners of war and thus returned to Vienna as early as May 1945.
He eventually became head of the department of Industry in the Austrian Federal Chamber of Commerce. His main project was the organisation of the training of apprentices, which he promoted all over Europe. This activity took him to many international conventions and as far as to the United States (1955) and to Russia (1960).
This important function seems to have been responsible for a certain discontinuity in his photographic ambitions. There are only a few photographs which mark him as a passionate amateur photographer. Most prints of these era are memorabilia of his family and documentation of his trips abroad.
Franz Rontag died in Vienna in 1980.
1930 Group Exposition: 3rd Show of the Austrian Association of amateur photographer societies, Association of German amateur photographer societies, Berlin, and the German Photographer Society in Czechoslovakia, special shows: Franz Drtikol / Prague, Prof. Rudolf Koppitz / Vienna, Willy Riethof / Vienna, March 30th – April 27th 1930: (Franz Rontag 3 prints e.gl. “Weiße Kunst” (Skier).
1930-1938 Various Group Expositions in Vienna
1931/32 Iris Kerst Salon, Antwerp
1933/34 Iris Kerst Salon, Antwerp
1934 III International Exhibition of the Association of Austrian Amateur-Photographers Clubs, Vienna
1934 Premier Salon International de Charleroi, Belgium
1934? A show at the Gallery „Wiener Künstlerhaus”, Vienna
1934 Birmingham Photographic Society
1936 Exhibition of Color Photographs at the University of Cambridge Camera Club
1936 London, Hampshire House Photographic Society
1937 A show of photographs at the opening of the Oxford University Camera Club
1937 General Assembly of the Photographic Society in Vienna
2004 A series of his 3-colour bromoil transfer prints were shon at the EUROBROM2, the 2nd gathering of members of the ISOB, the International Society of Bromoilists in Amsterdam
2005 Four 3-colour bromoil transfers were shown at the exhibition “The Art of Bromoil” from October to November in Richmond, Virginia, USA
Franz Rontag is amply documented in the biobibliography of the photographic archives of the famous gallery “ALBERTINA”, Vienna. http://albertina.at
His work has been documented by his relatives, daughter and son-in-law Mag. Paula Kreissl (neé Rontag) and Mag. Heinrich Kreissl on the internet: http://members.chello.at/kreissl/RONTAG/index.htm
Mr Gryspeerdt: http://www.gryspeerdt.co.uk/index.html --> Rontag