Film Actors [second from left Willy Birgel], 1934
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur - August Sander Archiv, Köln/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn and DACS, London 2014

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Film Actors [second from left Willy Birgel], 1934 1934
  • Artist Rooms
In his ambitious project ‘People of the 20th Century’ August Sander aimed to tell the social history of modern Germany through the medium of photography. He took a methodological approach, attempting to document and identify visually the social types and professional classes of his time. One group of professionals he was particularly interested in were those involved in the arts. This photograph showing four film actors proves Sander’s talent for composition. The balustrade that runs diagonally through the image draws the viewer’s eye towards the man and woman standing at its centre. The door in the background frames them, enhancing their appearance as a couple and encouraging us to speculate that they played the lead roles in a romantic film. The male actor has been identified as Willy Birgel (1891–1973) who began his career as a theatre actor and later made his name appearing in Nazi propaganda films and popular movies of the 1930s and 1940s. His partner may be the actress Lída Baarová (1914–2000), with whom Birgel appeared in ‘Barcarole’, a film released in 1935, a year after Sander’s photograph was taken. Sander included this photograph in the portfolio ‘The Actor’ from the group ‘The Artists’.


  • Acc. No. AL00084
  • Medium Black and white photograph on paper
  • Size 25.70 x 19.70 cm (paper 43.90 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