August Sander

The Woman of the Soil (1912)

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’. He divided his project into seven groups and the series began with photographs of rural farmers in the Westerwald region, in a group he called ‘The Farmer’. ‘The Woman of the Soil’ is the first female portrait in ‘The Portfolio of Archetypes’ and alludes in its title to the portfolio’s first image, ‘The Man of the Soil’ from 1910. This allusion illustrates Sander’s ambition to compile these images, the majority of which were the result of commissions between 1910 and 1914 in the Westerwald region, as a unified series to illustrate overarching themes in early twentieth century German society. It features an unusually scenic interior brimming with visual information. The floral wallpaper, richly carved cupboard and shelf of ceramic jars diagonally delineating the top of the picture plane flood the viewer with textural impressions and create a richly detailed and personal interior. Seated in a wooden chair with her feet upon a stool, her hands clasped on her knees and her lips pressed firmly together, the woman leans forward towards the viewer, seemingly in dialogue.

see media
  • title: The Woman of the Soil
  • accession number: AL00006
  • artist: August SanderGerman (1874 - 1964)
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Photograph
  • materials: Black and white photograph on paper
  • date created: 1912
  • measurements: 25.80 x 19.00 cm (paper 44.00 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: © Photograph. Samml. / SK Stiftung Kultur - A. 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.