About this artwork
August Sander, a professional portrait photographer based in Cologne, first exhibited his ambitious People of the 20th Century project in 1927. The final compilation, constituting (as Sander put it) a “physiognomical time exposure of German man,” was published posthumously and included over 600 portraits made between 1892 and 1954. Each sitter is featured at home or at work, dressed and posed according to their social identity. Sander categorized his subjects within a personally constructed social hierarchy, ranging from artists and farmers to beggars and the mentally ill. Otto Dix was a well-known painter whose work had led Sander to reassess his earlier portraiture and broaden its scope. This photograph appears in the section on women, alongside several portraits of artists and their wives; in contrast to the frontal poses usually found in his images of couples, in these Sander presented one spouse in profile.
— Permanent collection label
The portraits of August Sander are notable for their directness and freedom from the stiff decorum common to studio portraiture of his day. After working for many years as an itinerant photographer, Sander developed a quasi-scientific project in the 1920s to catalogue representatives of German society. Influenced by the work of painters such as Otto Dix, his subject here, this venture led Sander to reassess his earlier portraits and broaden the scope of his portraiture. Launching his project in 1927, Sander described his aim “to see things as they are and not as they should or might be . . . to tell the truth about our age and people.” Dix, who had recently published The War, a portfolio of gruesome etchings, similarly aspired to a detached recording of momentous events: “I . . . had to see how someone next to me suddenly fell and was gone, the bullet hitting him right in the middle.”
Currently Off View
- August Sander
- The Painter Otto Dix and His Wife, Martha
- Gelatin silver print
- Unmarked recto; printed verso, on affixed sticker on mount, lower center, in black ink: "Sander, "Meschen des 20. Jahrhunderts"; inscribed recto, lower left, in blue ink: "Prof Otto Dix und Frau"
- 24.7 x 21.7 cm (image, site); 43.9 x 34.3 cm (mount)
- Acquired through a grant from the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation
- © 2018 Die Photographische Sammlung / SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv Köln / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York