August Sander (1876–1964)
Art Dealer, Cologne, 1927
gelatin silver print, mounted to card
signed and dated '1925' in pencil (mount, recto); titled 'Kunsthändler' in pencil (mount, verso)
image: 8 1/2 x 5 3/4 in. (21.6 x 14.6 cm.)
mount: 15 5/8 x 12 7/8 in. (39.7 x 32.7 cm.)
Sonnabend Gallery, New York;
acquired from the above by John M. Bransten, San Francisco, 1972;
by descent to the present owner.
Gunther Sander (ed.), August Sander: Citizens of the Twentieth Century, Portrait Photographs, 1892-1952, The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1986, pl. 283.

Lot Essay

Art Dealer, Cologne, 1927 marks the convergence of two artistic German stalwarts from the first decades of the twentieth-century: photographer August Sander and art dealer Sam Salz. Taken in 1927 during the Weimer republic’s Goldene Zwanziger (Golden Twenties), a period of cultural, artistic and economic boom, this image embodies Sander’s skillfulness as a photographer. His style would go on to influence future generations of photographers, from Bernd and Hilla Becher to Diane Arbus.

The present print, made at the time of the negative, is mounted, signed and retains its original vellum overmat. In general, prints from before WWII are exceptionally rare. It is known that window mats of this type were not used by the artist after the War. According to the family of the artist, this is likely the only vintage print of this image to have survived.

Sander’s early experience with the medium dates back to his time as a photographer’s assistant in the military from 1897-1899. The following decade Sander set up his own studio and in the 1910s embarked on his first major project, Antlitz der Zeit [Face of the Time] a compendium of sixty photographs that served as an objective and neutral depiction of the people in his native Westerwald, near Cologne. Published in 1929, the project served as the foundation for Menschen des 20. Jahrhunderts [Citizens of the Twentieth Century], an ambitious typological survey of the German population (‘physiognomy of people,’ as he called it,) capturing six-hundred subjects who were subsequently divided into seven distinct groups, or types. Kunsthändler [Sam Salz] was among the portraits who comprised the fourth group, ‘Occupations’, under the subgroup ‘Teachers’.

Sam Salz (1894-1981) was born in present-day Poland, and at age seventeen left home, first to Austria and later France before settling in Cologne. Despite his early aspirations to become an artist, in the 1920s Salz opened his own gallery and began dealing in some of the leading avant-garde Modernists, from Chaïm Soutine to Marc Chagall and Georges Braque. Following his popularity among artists, Salz became the subject of a number of portraits, including a pastel drawing by Édouard Vuillard (fig. 1), a watercolor by James Ensor (fig. 2) and, as seen in the current lot, August Sander. Salz’s appeal to Sander was evident and expected: both were at the forefront of their respective fields, eschewing traditional norms and aesthetics in favor of a more radical style. Just as Salz was championing artists at the forefront of Modern art, Sander socialized with the ‘Cologne Progressives’, a group of artists in the Cologne area who worked in the Post-Expressionist spirit.

Sander was careful and clear in his intention to show each of his subjects in their natural environment, stating, 'We can tell from appearance the work someone does or does not do; we can read in his face whether he is happy or troubled.' In the current portrait, Salz is in a stylish herringbone coat, confidently leaning against a grand entrance, framed artwork hanging in the background. In his hands is a publication rolled to strategically reveal an Art Deco illustration of a young fashionable woman, an emblem of Germany’s gilded era. This print, among the earliest by Sander to come up for auction, offers an intimate glimpse into the great talent of Sander, the established success of Salz and a brief period of Germany’s artistic flourishing between the Wars.

More from Portrait of a Collector: The John M. Bransten Collection of Photographs

View All
View All