August Sander

Film Actors [second from left Willy Birgel], 1934 (1934)

About this artwork

In his ambitious project ‘People of the 20th Century’ August Sander aimed to tell the social history of modern Germany through the medium of photography. He took a methodological approach, attempting to document and identify visually the social types and professional classes of his time. One group of professionals he was particularly interested in were those involved in the arts. This photograph showing four film actors proves Sander’s talent for composition. The balustrade that runs diagonally through the image draws the viewer’s eye towards the man and woman standing at its centre. The door in the background frames them, enhancing their appearance as a couple and encouraging us to speculate that they played the lead roles in a romantic film. The male actor has been identified as Willy Birgel (1891–1973) who began his career as a theatre actor and later made his name appearing in Nazi propaganda films and popular movies of the 1930s and 1940s. His partner may be the actress Lída Baarová (1914–2000), with whom Birgel appeared in ‘Barcarole’, a film released in 1935, a year after Sander’s photograph was taken. Sander included this photograph in the portfolio ‘The Actor’ from the group ‘The Artists’.

see media
  • title: Film Actors [second from left Willy Birgel], 1934
  • accession number: AL00084
  • artist: August SanderGerman (1874 - 1964)
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Photograph
  • medium: Embossed paper in frame
  • date created: 1934
  • measurements: 25.70 x 19.70 cm (paper 43.90 x 33.90 cm; mount: 46.00 x 36.00 cm) (framed: 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.