"The Thinker was photographed in Vancouver in summer 1996. The work is inspired by Albrecht Dürer's Bauernsäule (Peasant's Column), a woodcut print in Dürer's famous teatrise 'Underwiesung der Messung' of 1525. Dürer's column is a proposal for a monument commemorating the defeat of the peasant uprising in Germany in the 16th century. The base and the column are decorated animals, tools and symbols of agricultural produce such as a butter churn, a milk jug and a jar of lard. A disillusioned and weeping peasant , who appears to have been stabbed in the back with a sword, is seated on top as if in contemplation of his betrayal and the failure of the peasant cause.
The Thinker is Wall's proposal for an 'imaginary monument, dedicated to disappointment and failure' (Wall/Chevrier 1988). Wall's Thinker is not a peasant but an elderly worker seated on a reduced version of the column consisting of a tree trunk, a curbstone and a cement building block. The pose of the Thinker also recalls the sculpture Le Penseur of 1880 by Auguste Rodin (1840-1917)" (K. Grögel, Stephan E. Hauser, H. Naef, Jeff Wall Catalogue Raisonné 1978-2004, Göttingen 2005, p. 302).