August Sander

The Philosopher (1913)

About this artwork

August Sander’s ambition to create a photographic documentation of all ‘types’ of German people resulted in the collection ‘The People of the 20th Century’. The series began with photographs of rural farmers in the Westerwald region, in a group he called ‘The Farmer’. Sander did not include his subjects’ names, instead he used succinct titles to introduce them as representatives of a specific group. He systematically approached each subject with the same simple and straightforward style, occasionally including items of their trade or objects that alluded to social status or class. This image combines the traditional format of a knee-length seated portrait with the outdoor environment denoted by a softly focused landscape. Evenly lit and richly detailed, the subject seems to be turning towards the camera. Dressed formally and carefully groomed, the subject’s large weathered hands hold a pipe, and, with his face, are the focal points of the image.

see media
  • title: The Philosopher
  • accession number: AL00003
  • artist: August SanderGerman (1874 - 1964)
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Photograph
  • medium: Embossed paper in frame
  • date created: 1913
  • measurements: 25.80 x 19.00 cm (paper 43.90 x 33.90 cm; mount: 46.00 x 36.00 cm; frame: 48.20 x 38.20 x 3.20 cm)
  • credit line: ARTIST ROOMS National Galleries of Scotland and Tate. Lent by Anthony d'Offay 2010
  • copyright: © Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur - August Sander Archiv, Köln/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn and DACS, London 2016.
This artwork is part of Artist Rooms

August Sander

August Sander

Considered one of the finest photographers of the twentieth century, Sander's bold style of portrait photography, as well as his typological approach, has had an enormous influence on modern photography. During his apprenticeship in several German studios and his time in his own studio in Austria, he developed his individual style. Then in 1910 Sander moved to Cologne and produced his first large group of photographs, which he later included in his concept "People of the 20th Century". This was created in the mid-1920s and compiled up until the 1950s. He photographed groups of people in his native Germany, classifying them according to their occupations and positions in society.