The Varnisher, about 1930
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur - August Sander Archiv, Köln/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn and DACS, London 2014

Reference URL

The Varnisher, about 1930 about 1930
  • Artist Rooms
In his photographic project ‘People of the 20th Century’ August Sander attempted to create a typology of the German people particular to that time. Photographed in Cologne, the ‘Varnisher’ is included in the portfolio ‘Working Types – Physical and Intellectual’ contained within the second group ‘The Skilled Tradesman’. In this strikingly physical portrait the tradesman, with his sleeves rolled up, looks as if he is photographed midway through his working day. Sander uses contrasting scale and light to convey a sense of monumentality; the man is dwarfed by the doorframe and doorsill that frame him in proportion with his oversize wooden clogs. Bright daylight illuminates the texture of the paint cracking on the wooden frame, the dotted stains on the varnisher’s apron and the coarse ground beneath him, set against the darkness of the interior space behind.


  • Acc. No. AL00041
  • Medium Black and white photograph on paper
  • Size 26.00 x 19.00 cm (paper 44.00 x 33.90 cm; mount: 46.00 x 36.00 cm) (framed: 48.20 x 38.20 x 3.20 cm)
  • Credit ARTIST ROOMS National Galleries of Scotland and Tate. Lent by Anthony d'Offay 2010