August Sander - Galerie Julian Sander

August Sander

Born: 17 Nov, 1876
Died: 20 Apr, 1964


August Sander was born 17 November 1876, in Herdorf near Cologne. He was the son of a carpenter working in the mining industry. Sander first learned about photography by assisting a photographer who was working for the mining company. With financial support from his uncle, he bought his first photographic equipment and started to teach himself about photography. He spent his military service 1897–1899, as a photographer’s assistant under Georg Jung. In the following years he traveled to Berlin, Magdeburg, Halle, Leipzig and Dresden among others, working in photographic studios. In 1901, he started working for the Photographische Kunstanstalt Greif in Linz, Austria; eventually becoming its sole proprietor in 1904. He left Linz at the end of 1910 due to his son becoming ill with polio. He established a new studio in the Lindenthal neighborhood of Cologne. In the early 1920s, Sander met regularly with the “Group of Progressive Artists” in Cologne including the very influential artists Franz W. Seiwert and Heinrich Hoerle. It was at this time that he formalized the concept for his major project, Menschen des 20. Jahrhunderts. In November 1927, Sander introduced his project in an exhibition in the Kölnische Kunstverein, of approximately 100 portraits. This well received exhibition led to the publishing of his first book “Antlitz der Zeit” (Face of Our Time) in 1929. The artist spent six months organizing the presentation and layout of the 60 portraits in the book; it was a preview for the larger project to be called “Menschen des 20. Jahrhundert.” The Nazi party came to power in 1933, the book was seized in 1936 and the printing plates were destroyed. Also in 1934, August’s son Erich, who was a member of the left wing Socialist Workers’ Party, was arrested and sentenced to 10 years in prison, where he died in 1944, shortly before the end of his sentence. Around 1942, Sander began to leave Cologne and move to a little village in the Westerwald named Kuchhausen. From 1942 on Sander relocated the most important parts of his negative archive to Kuchhausen. His studio in Cologne was destroyed in a 1944 bombing raid. Sander continued to work on his project “People of the 20th Century” throughout the rest of his life. He added to and edited his selections for the project making notes on the negative plates and in his letters to friends. In 1952, August Sander exhibited at the Photokina in Cologne. This was initiated and supported by L. Fritz Gruber, who was a publicist and supporter of photography and an old friend of the family. In 1953, Sander was visited by Edward Steichen, who selected a number of works to be included in his exhibition, “The Family of Man,” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in 1955. Sander died in Cologne on 20 April 1964. His work includes landscape, nature, architecture, and street photography, but he is best known for his portraits, as exemplified in his project, “Menschen des 20. Jahrhunderts.”