Kenny Wilson Blog Archive

August Sander at Leicester Museum and Art Gallery

Bricklayer by August Sander

If you haven’t been recently you really should go to Leicester museum and Art Gallery on New Walk. It has recently been refurbished (not quite finished yet) and looks great. Currently there is an exhibition of photographs by August Sander that is really worth a look. I realise that in my wanderings I have come across exhibitions with the subtitle Artist Rooms. I have discovered that this refers to art dealer Anthony D’Offay who donated most of his art collection to the nation in 2008.

” In 2008 Anthony donated hundreds of his own works, including many Warhols, to the nation. This collection is known as ARTIST ROOMS and is managed by Tate and the National Galleries of Scotland. Artworks from it are lent to national and regional museums and galleries with the opportunity of receiving funding to attract young audiences. This was an incredibly generous thing to do and really makes d’Offay one of the ‘good guys’.” (From the Sheffield Art Gallery web site).

Both the Warhol exhibitions in Sheffield and Hull are part of this and so is the exhibition in Leicester of August Sander.

Soldier by August Sander

This is what the programme says of his work:

“The exhibition of German photographer August Sander (1876-1964) draws together 175 photographs and a wide range of archival material from the collections of Tate, National Galleries of Scotland, Anthony d’Offay and Gerd Sander.

This presentation creates a unique opportunity to see the different facets of August Sander’s photographic practice, including his celebrated portraits alongside less well known aspects of his work.

August Sander’s most significant project was ‘The People of the Twentieth Century’. Sander wanted to create an encyclopaedic survey of different types of people from the first half of the twentieth century. His working life in Germany spanned the First World War, the interwar years, the rise of the Nazi party, the Second World War and its aftermath.

The Artist

His photographs are unflinching documents of a society going through huge change. The work reflects both the catastrophic political convulsions that Germany was enduring and a society slowly coming to terms with the impact of industrialisation. The clarity and breadth of his vision remains powerful and his vocational portraits still resonate today.”

It is a fascinating exhibition with incredibly sharp black and white pictures. He attempts to photograph all types of people in his native Germany but it inevitably becomes much darker as the Nazis take power and the build up to World War 2. By this time the sections include The Soldier, The Victims and The National Socialist!

Victim Of Persecution

Here is a short biography of him:

August Sander (17 November 1876 – 20 April 1964) was a German portrait and documentary photographer. Sander’s first book Face of our Time (German title: Antlitz der Zeit) was published in 1929. Sander has been described as “the most important German portrait photographer of the early twentieth century.”
Sander was born in Herdorf, the son of a carpenter working in the mining industry. While working at a local mine, Sander first learned about photography by assisting a photographer who was working for a mining company. With financial support from his uncle, he bought photographic equipment and set up his own darkroom.
He spent his military service (1897–99) as a photographer’s assistant and the next years wandering across Germany. In 1901, he started working for a photo studio in Linz, Austria, eventually becoming a partner (1902), and then its sole proprietor (1904). He left Linz at the end of 1909 and set up a new studio in Cologne.
In the early 1920s, Sander joined the “Group of Progressive Artists” in Cologne and began plans to document contemporary society in a portrait series. In 1927, Sander and writer de:Ludwig Mathar travelled through Sardinia for three months, where he took around 500 photographs. However, a planned book detailing his travels was not completed.
Sander’s Face of our Time was published in 1929. It contains a selection of 60 portraits from his series People of the 20th Century. Under the Nazi regime, his work and personal life were greatly constrained. His son Erich, who was a member of the left wing Socialist Workers’ Party (SAP), was arrested in 1934 and sentenced to 10 years in prison, where he died in 1944, shortly before the end of his sentence. Sander’s book Face of our Time was seized in 1936 and the photographic plates destroyed. Around 1942, during World War II, he left Cologne and moved to a rural area, allowing him to save most of his negatives. His studio was destroyed in a 1944 bombing raid.
Sander died in Cologne. His work includes landscape, nature, architecture, and street photography, but he is best known for his portraits, as exemplified by his series People of the 20th Century. In this series, he aims to show a cross-section of society during the Weimar Republic. The series is divided into seven sections: The Farmer, The Skilled Tradesman, Woman, Classes and Professions, The Artists, The City, and The Last People (homeless persons, veterans, etc.). By 1945, Sander’s archive included over 40,000 images.
In 2002, the August Sander Archiv and scholar Susanne Lange published a seven-volume collection comprising some 650 of Sander’s photographs (August Sander: People of the 20th Century, Harry N. Abrams).”

Circus Workers
SS Captain







Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *