August Sander

Matter, 1925 (1925)

About this artwork

August Sander’s monumental project ‘People of the 20th Century’ concludes with a group of photographs that he titled ‘The Last People’. While many of this ambitious project’s more than 500 photographs are dedicated to documenting the professional working and middle classes, ‘The Last People’ depicts those figures who move on the margins of society: the sick, the disabled, the old and the insane. Two portraits included in the group bear the chilling title ‘Matter’. They show two recently deceased people on their deathbeds – here an elderly woman whose face is shown in profile. These pictures testify to Sander’s reflections on the cycle of life and death and the relationship between man and nature. The white garments and bed linens framing the old woman’s face and evoking peace and spiritual purity are thrown into strong relief by the contrasting black background that suggests the infinity of a night without end.

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  • title: Matter, 1925
  • accession number: AL00163
  • artist: August SanderGerman (1874 - 1964)
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Photograph
  • medium: Embossed paper in frame
  • date created: 1925
  • measurements: 17.10 x 22.10 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.