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Children's Hands in a Washbasin

  • Object:


  • Date:

    c. 1930 (photographed)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Dörner, Erhard (photographer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Gelatin-silver print

  • Credit Line:

    Copyright Estate of Erhard Dörner

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F, case X, shelf 922, box A

  • Public access description

    During the 1920s and 1930s photographers began to explore new sensations of space. They approached a subject from a variety of angles, above and below, to express the speed and dislocation of modern life. The result was a refreshed perception and appreciation of even the most everyday subjects and surroundings. Here, the ritual of washing hands becomes a study of forms, textures and dynamics. Nevertheless, the subject loses none of its human appeal.

  • Physical description

    Black and white photograph of two pairs of children's hands (and arms) above a white circular wash-basin; one pair of hands holds a block of soap. The view point is from above.

  • Dimensions

    Length: 32.7 cm sheet, Width: 26 cm sheet

  • Object history note

    Erhard Dörner worked in Germany during the 1930s as a painter and amateur photographer. His photography was displayed in the influential Film und Foto exhibition held in Stuttgart in 1929. Like many of the works in this exhibition, Dörner's photographs explored the new ideas about photography emerging from the Bauhau school of design. The Bauhaus artist and designer László Moholy-Nagy expressed this approach to photography in A New Instrument of Vision (1932):

    "Through photography...we can participate in new experiences of space...we have attained an enlargement and sublimation of our appreciation of space, the comprehension of a new spatial culture. Thanks to the photographer humanity has acquired the power of perceiving its surroundings, and its very existence, with new eyes".

  • Descriptive line

    Photograph by Erhard Dörner, 'Children's Hands in a Washbasin', gelatin-silver print, c.1930

  • Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

    Sotheby's Auction Catalogue, 'Important Avant-Garde Photographs of the 1920s and 1930s: The Helene Anderson Collection', Friday 2 May, 1997

  • Labels and date

    Gallery 100, 2016-17:

    Erhard Dörner (1888–1933)
    ‘Children’s Hands in a Washbasin’
    About 1930

    During the 1920s and ’30s, photographers began to experiment with approaches to space and with photographing from unexpected angles. The images they created seemed to express the speed of modern life, and created a new appreciation of everyday subjects. Here, the ritual of washing hands becomes a study of forms, textures and dynamics.

    Gelatin silver print
    Museum no. E.799-1997 []

  • Collection code

    Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection