The J. Paul Getty Museum

Farm Children, Westerwald

Object Details


Farm Children, Westerwald


August Sander (German, 1876 - 1964)




Westerwald, Germany (Place Created)




Gelatin silver print

Object Number:



27.6 × 22.7 cm (10 7/8 × 8 15/16 in.)


© J. Paul Getty Trust

See more

See less

Object Description

In 1913 August Sander photographed the three children of the Gehlhausen family, owners of a guest house in Weissenbrüchen. The youngsters are depicted in the company of their dog and toys, facing the camera with deep, unbridled suspicion. A recent downpour has turned the dirt road on which they are standing into mud, making the outdoor session a particularly unappealing endeavor. The boys are dressed for the occasion in crisp, pin-striped navy costumes. Their baby sister, propped up in her wooden carriage, is fretfully hanging on to a doll. The boy on the right holds his whip like an alien implement, making no attempt to use it on the hobbyhorse in front of him.

Sander tightly framed the scene, lowering his camera and moving in closely on his subjects. Had he opened his lens a little further, it might have revealed an array of cajoling adults standing close by, pleading with the children to hold still and not spoil their spotless clothing. Only the dog, who guards the miserable trio with an impish smile, seems to be enjoying the experience.

Sander approached the scene before him like a true documentarian, humorously registering the youngsters' lackluster performance in front of his lens. It has been observed that the image is reminiscent of the popular painting The Hülsenbeck Children (1805) by the Romantic artist Philipp Otto Runge (1777-1810), in which the three subjects are represented at lively play in their garden. This photograph, however, is Runge's painting gone terribly wrong. Libertine playfulness gives way to a frightening display of Wilhelmine discipline—a subtle parody on Sander's part that was sure to amuse the sophisticated urban audience at which his larger project was directed.

Originally published in August Sander, In Focus: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum by Claudia Bohn-Spector (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2000), 24. ©2000, J. Paul Getty Trust.

- 1964

August Sander, German, 1876 - 1964, by inheritance to his son, Gunther Sander, 1964.

1964 - late 1960s

Gunther Sander, German, 1907 - 1987, sold to Volker Kahmen and Georg Heusch, late 1960s.

late 1960s - 1984

Volker Kahmen & Georg Heusch, sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1984.

August Sander: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum (September 22 to October 30, 1988)
  • Stiftung Bahnhof Rolandseck, September 22 to October 30, 1988
On the Art of Fixing a Shadow: 150 Years of Photography (May 7, 1989 to February 25, 1990)
  • National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.), May 7 to July 30, 1989
  • The Art Institute of Chicago, September 9 to November 26, 1989
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Los Angeles), December 29, 1989 to February 25, 1990
August Sander: Faces of the German People (May 21 to November 3, 1991)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), May 21 to July 28, 1991
  • J.B. Speed Art Museum (Louisville), September 17 to November 3, 1991
August Sander: People of the Twentieth Century (November 16, 2007 to September 14, 2008)
  • Art Gallery of New South Wales (Sydney), November 16, 2007 to February 3, 2008
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), May 6 to September 14, 2008

Sander, August. Menschen des 20. Jahrhunderts : ein Kulturwerk in Lichtbildern eingeteilt in sieben Gruppen = People of the 20th century : a cultural work of photographs divided into seven groups = Hommes du XXe sie`cle : une œuvre culturelle divise´e en sept groupes Vol 1 Der Bauer/ The Farmer/ Le paysan/ August Sander ; herausgegeben von Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur ; bearbeitet und neu zusammengestellt von Susanne Lange, Gabriele Conrath-Scholl, Gerd Sander. (New York: Distributed by H. N. Abrams, 2002).