Galerie Wilde, Cologne
Hendrik Berinson, Berlin
Sander Gallery, New York
Acquired by the Quillan Company from the above, 1990
Jill Quasha, The Quillan Collection of Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Photographs (New York, 1991), pl. 69 (this print)
Other prints of this image:
Antlitz der Zeit: Sechzig Aufnahmen Deutscher Menschen des 20. Jahrhunderts von August Sander (München, 1929), pl. 26
Gunther Sander, ed., August Sander: Citizens of the Twentieth Century, Portrait Photographs, 1892-1952 (Cambridge and London, 1997), p. 200
Gunther Sander, August Sander: Photographer Extraordinary (London, 1973), unpaginated
Manfred Heiting, August Sander, 1876-1974 (Köln, 1999), p. 78
August Sander: 'In Photography, There Are No Unexplained Shadows!' (London: National Portrait Gallery, 1996, in conjunction with the exhibition), p. 98
The photograph offered here, an early print executed by August Sander, depicts the photographer's son Erich, and his friends Richard Kreutzberg, Hans Schoemann, and Georg Hansen, all of whom were political radicals and dedicated members of the Communist party. Erich Sander was arrested in 1934 by the National Socialists and later died in ill health in prison. The fate of his friends was equally representative of the tumultuous period in which they lived: Kreutzberg committed suicide in 1933, Schoemann worked in the underground resistance during the war, and Hansen was imprisoned in London in 1932 for espionage in the service of the U.S.S.R.
The image Werkstudenten, taken in 1926, was included in Sander's seminal publication, Antlitz der Zeit [Face of the Time], published in Munich in 1929. The book of sixty photographs was intended as a straightforward and unidealized social document of his time, and was referred to by Sander as a 'physiognomy of people.' The book would come to the attention of the Nazis a few years later, perhaps because it showed the German public as diverse, rather than homogeneous. In 1934, the remaining publisher's copies of Antlitz der Zeit were seized by Hitler's Ministry of Culture and the halftone printing plates destroyed. This might have been avoided had Sander not assisted his son Erich with the publication of Communist leaflets shortly before. Now considered one of the great documentary projects in the history of photography, the book has been extremely influential to artists as diverse as Diane Arbus and Bernd and Hilla Becher, and was the precursor to Sander's later work, namely his unrealized Menschen des 20. Jahrhunderts [Citizens of the Twentieth Century].
Close comparison of the print offered here with the reproduction of the same image in Antlitz der Zeit suggests that it is this early state of the image that was used in the first edition of the book. The print's distinguishing characteristics include a vertical line of the photographer's original retouching behind the head of the second figure on the left, as well as other small areas of retouching and a small mark at the top left edge of the print. All of these marks, presumably unique to this print, correspond to the Antlitz der Zeit illustration. These identifiers do not appear in subsequent reproductions of the image.
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