August Sander, portrait of Anton Räderscheidt, 1927
The NGV‘s recent Mad Square exhibition of Weimar art included the August Sander photograph above. It is a portrait of the painter Anton Räderscheidt, photographed on the Bismarckstrasse in Cologne. Shot at six in the morning when the street was empty of people, Räderscheidt is dressed in his usual attire, looking like a figure from one of his own paintings. In the 1920s and 30s, Räderscheidt painted in the New Objectivity mode, shading off into Magic Realism: bowler-hatted figures encounter modern buildings, and naked women, in airless streetscapes.
The photograph has always seemed strangely blunt to me – the subject faces the camera without guile or grace, like a court exhibit. There is something about the legs which reinforces the object-quality of the figure, as though he is a table rather than a person. Two variant images have surfaced, one shows the subject in a more relaxed pose, and another where he stands amid horse droppings – well it was the Weimar period.
Räderscheidt had a long career as a painter. Successful in the Weimar period, he became an official Degenerate artist in the Nazi period and left Germany, but he survived into old age with some renown. His paintings, which can be seen at www.raederscheidt.com, showed solitary figures in empty, alien streets, just like Sander’s photograph.