Pinakothek der Moderne exhibits a rare collection of vintage prints by August Sander

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Pinakothek der Moderne exhibits a rare collection of vintage prints by August Sander
August Sander, Peasant boys with a donkey, Iglesiente (?), 1927. Photo: Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich © Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv, Köln/VG Bild-Kunst Bonn 2020.

MUNICH.- The Ann and Jürgen Wilde Foundation is showing a rare collection of vintage prints of photographs August Sander took during a trip to Italy in 1927. The show is a continuation of the long-running partnership between the Ann and Jürgen Wilde Foundation and the Collection of Photography and New Media at the Pinakothek der Moderne.

August Sander (1876–1964) is one of the best-known photographers of the New Objectivity (Neue Sachlichkeit) and New Vision (Neues Sehen) movements of the 1920s and 1930s. His seminal portfolio of contemporary portraiture Menschen des 20. Jahrhunderts (People of the 20th Century) remains a landmark publication in the history of photography.

He published the photobook Antlitz der Zeit (Face of Our Time) in 1929 as a foretaste of Menschen des 20. Jahrhunderts and the monumental sociological panorama he had planned. But few people now know that just before this time, before he became more widely known as a methodical portraitist of social typologies of Weimar-era Germany, Sander undertook a trip to Italy in 1927 with his friend, the writer and Italophile Ludwig Mathar (1882–1958). In the previous year, 1926, Mathar had released a book of travel writing, Primavera. Frühlingsfahrten ins unbekannte Italien, and another book was now in the planning, this time about the remote island of Sardinia. In spring of 1927, the writer and the photographer spent several weeks roaming the isle, which, at the time, was still very much off the beaten track, shrouded in southern mystery, and carried a whiff of the exotic. Travelling by train and in postal-service vans, Sander and Mathar started in the capital, Cagliari, in the south, and wound their way northwards. They visited historical sites – such as churches and Bronze-Age nuraghi specific to the island – as well as remote villages and towns. Through a local painter and friend, Filippo Figari, they came into closer contact with members of the rural population and were able to experience religious practices and customs at first hand.

Ludwig Mathar intended to include August Sander’s photographs in his Sardinian travel book, which was planned for release by the Munich-based publishers F. Bruckmann Verlag but ultimately never made it to print. In all, August Sander took over 300 photographs of Sardinia’s architecture, landscape, people, and customs. These images reveal Sander’s respectfully attuned eye in capturing situations of everyday life and lay bare the characteristics of the landscape, buildings, and people distinct to the region. Sander’s photographs represent a unique artistic and ethnographic visual record of Sardinia, a region Ludwig Mathar described as: ‘an enchantingly melancholic, historically enigmatic, artistically singular, folklorically primeval country.’

The display features 25 original prints from the Sardinia series from the collection of the Ann and Jürgen Wilde Foundation. They all stem from a personal album compiled by Ludwig Mathar himself, which Ann and Jürgen Wilde acquired from the writer’s estate in 1975 and showed for the first time in 1995 in a cabinet exhibition that came with its own publication. Today’s presentation is enriched by a number of documents, archive material, and editions of books from the Weimar years and beyond that illustrate the historical context in which the photographs were taken and handed down to us today.

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