August Sander

Cretin, c.1924 (about 1924)

About this artwork

August Sander’s monumental photographic project ‘People of the 20th Century’ comprises seven groups that represent the social structures and professions of his time. This photograph is from the seventh group, entitled ‘The Last People’, which depicts figures confined to the margins of society: the sick, the disabled, the old and the insane. Most of the pictures from this group were either taken in the Westerwald, as in this case, or in Sander’s Cologne studio. The image’s title, ‘Cretin’, is characteristic of the typological approach that Sander followed in his documentary project. The subjects of his portraits are usually not portrayed as individuals with specific qualities, but as representatives of certain social types. At the time that Sander took this picture, such terms as ‘cretin’ were descriptive rather than discriminatory, objectively conveying an individual’s social standing, rather than ridiculing him or her. Sander’s objective approach is also conveyed through his realistic style of photography.

see media
  • title: Cretin, c.1924
  • accession number: AL00136
  • artist: August SanderGerman (1874 - 1964)
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Photograph
  • medium: Embossed paper in frame
  • date created: about 1924
  • measurements: 25.90 x 18.50 cm (paper 43.90 x 34.00 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.