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’. 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’. His ambition to produce a catalogue of documentary images by using photography as a timeless mode of communication resulted in a collection of images that stand alone as works, but are most impressive in their wider context. This seated portrait is the female counterpart to ‘The Philosopher’ and stands alongside it in the ‘Portfolio of Archetypes’. The foci of this seated three-quarter length portrait are the woman’s face and hands that are in stark contrast to the dark background. She intently holds a book which references the photograph’s title. The dark background is broken by the use of the high-backed chair, set at a slight angle, its curving lines dynamic in this otherwise calm and tightly focussed portrait.

see media
  • title: The Philosopher
  • accession number: AL00007
  • artist: August SanderGerman (1874 - 1964)
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Photograph
  • medium: Embossed paper in frame
  • date created: 1913
  • measurements: 25.90 x 18.40 cm (paper 43.9 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.