Thomas Struth

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Thomas Struth
Thomas Struth at the Ludwig Museum, in Cologne (2016)
Born11 October 1954
Education Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf
Known forPhotography
Notable work
Museum Photographs (1989–2002)
Movement Düsseldorf School of Photography

Thomas Struth (born 11 October 1954) is a German photographer who is best known for his Museum Photographs series, family portraits and black and white photographs of the streets of Düsseldorf and New York taken in the 1970s. Struth lives and works in Berlin and New York.[ citation needed ]


Early life and education

Born to ceramic potter Gisela Struth and bank director Heinrich Struth in Geldern, Germany, [1] Struth trained at the Düsseldorf Academy from 1973 until 1980 where he initially studied painting under Peter Kleemann and, from 1974, Gerhard Richter. Increasingly drawn to photography and with Richter's support, Struth, along with Candida Höfer, Axel Hütte, and Roswitha Ronkholz, joined the first year of the new photography class run by Bernd and Hilla Becher, in 1976. [2] In 2007, he was an artist in residence at the Atlantic Center for the Arts.

In 2007, Struth married author Tara Bray Smith in New York. [3]


In 1976, as part of a student exhibition at the Academy, Struth first showed a grid composed of 49 photographs taken from a centralized perspective [4] on Düsseldorf's deserted streets, each of them obeying a strict logic of central symmetry. [5] The compositions are simple and the photographs are neither staged nor digitally manipulated in post-production. [6] Strong contrasts of light and shade are also avoided, Struth preferring the greyish, uninflected light of early morning. This serves to enhance the neutral treatment of the scenes. [7]

In 1977, Struth and Hütte travelled to England for two months, and teamed up to photograph different aspects of housing in the urban context of East London. In 1978 Struth was the first artist in residence at P.S. 1 Studios, Long Island City.[ citation needed ] In 1979 Struth travelled to Paris to visit Thomas Schütte, a fellow student at the Kunstakademie, and continued his photographs of cityscapes. He went on to produce similar series in Rome (1984), Edinburgh (1985), Tokyo (1986), and elsewhere. These early works largely consisted of black-and-white shots of streets. Skyscrapers were another feature of his work, with many of his photographs attempting to show the relationship people have with their modern-day environment.

In the mid-1980s, Struth added a new dimension to his work when he started to produce family portraits, some of which are in colour and others in black and white. This was after a meeting with psychoanalyst Ingo Hartmann. As a result, these works attempt to show the underlying social dynamics within a seemingly still photograph.

In 1989, Struth began work on his best-known cycle, Museum Photographs, devoted to the visitors to some of the world's great museums and buildings, including The Art Institute of Chicago, the Musée du Louvre in Paris, the Accademia in Venice, and the Pantheon in Rome. Expanding the practice after living in Naples and Rome at the end of the 1980s, he also photographed visitors of churches. From 1998 on, Struth expanded the series with images shot on sites of powerful secular significance (including Times Square and the Yosemite National Park). His pictures of the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, taken between 1996 and 2001, comprise the first series of Museum Photographs dedicated entirely to a single museum with architectural and sculptural works from classical antiquity, including the famous Pergamon Altar and the market gate of Milet. [8] After several unsuccessful attempts to make works based on candid shots of visitors at the Pergamon Museum, in 2001 he decided to orchestrate the positioning of participants in a series of photos. [9] Struth's "Museo del Prado" series from 2005, composed of five photographs taken over the course of one week, all shot from slightly different angles, of visitors flocking around Velázquez's Las Meninas. Also in 2005, he began producing a second series consisting of close-ups of spectators of a single work at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg. Here the spectators are the central object of the photograph, while the artwork itself remains outside the frame. By including in his photographs people who are looking at art, "Struth makes viewers ... aware of their own active participation in the completion of the work's meaning, not as passive consumers but as re-interpreters of the past." [10]

Basing himself in Düsseldorf, Struth's profile continued to expand in the 1990s. Between 1998 and 2006, Struth began scouring the earth for jungle settings in Japan, Australia, China, America and Europe; [11] his first eight large-format Pictures from Paradise were created in 1998 in the Daintree Rainforest in Australia. [12] Between 1995 and 2003, he produced a series of photographs featuring groups of people gathered at emblematic locations, whether as tourists or as pilgrims. [13]

Again created throughout Asia, Europe and the Americas, mural-sized colour photographs of 2010 that are up to 4 metres long record the structural intricacy of remote techno-industrial and scientific research spaces, such as physics institutes, pharmaceutical plants, space stations, dockyards, nuclear facilities and other edifices of technological production.[ citation needed ] In 2014, Struth presented a series of pictures in which he again penetrates key places of human imagination to scrutinize the landscape of enterprise, invention and digital engineering. Taking an archetypal site for the creation of cultural dreams and imagination, one group of pictures depicts panoramic views of Disneyland and Disney California Adventure (devoid of crowds), [14] partly inspired by Katja Eichinger’s 2008 article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung about the altered perspective and reading of the theme parks since their beginnings in the 1950s.[ citation needed ] For his most recent work, Animals (2017–2018), Struth worked at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) in Berlin, following researchers in biology and veterinary medicine in their study of wildlife diversity and conservation.[ citation needed ]

Meanwhile, Struth continues to add to his collection of family portraits. [15] In 2002, Gerhard Richter asked Struth to make a family portrait for an article on Richter's work in the New York Times Magazine . In 2011, he was commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery to make a double portrait of Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh. [16]

From 1993 to 1996, Struth was the first Professor of Photography at the Staatliche Hochschule für Gestaltung in Karlsruhe, Germany. Between 2010 and 2011, he served as Humanitas Visiting Professor in Contemporary Art at Oxford University. [17]


Struth's work has been widely shown in solo and group exhibitions, among them the 44th Venice Biennale (1990)[ citation needed ] and Documenta IX (1992)[ citation needed ] at Kassel. His first solo show outside of Germany took place at Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh in 1987. [18] In 1988, Struth exhibited in the group show "Another Objectivity",[ citation needed ] organized by the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, which sought to define a current of research born in Germany in the wake of the Bechers’ work. [19] Struth later had his first solo exhibition in the U.S. at The Renaissance Society in Chicago in 1990. [20] Following the anthological exhibitions held in 2002 at the Dallas Museum of Art [ citation needed ] and the MOCA in Los Angeles,[ citation needed ] in 2003 his work was presented at the Great Hall of the Metropolitan Museum, with the screening of the video One Hour Video Portraits of portraits on which Struth had been working since 1996. [21] The centre of the exhibition was the Museum series, which featured seemingly ordinary shots of people entering churches, museums and other public places. In 2007, he became the first contemporary artist ever to be exhibited at the Museo del Prado, Madrid, among the permanent collection of old masters.[ citation needed ]

In 2010, a European retrospective of his work, "Thomas Struth: Photographs 1978–2010" was held at Kunsthaus Zürich, later traveling to Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen K20, Düsseldorf; Whitechapel Gallery, London; and Museu Serralves, Porto.[ citation needed ]



Art market

Struth usually works in editions of ten prints. [26] In 2007, his work Pantheon, Rome (1994) was sold to David Zwirner [27] at Christie's New York for more than $1,000,000. [28] In 2014, an earlier version of Pantheon, Rome executed in 1992 sold for $1.25 million at Sotheby's London site. [29]

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  1. Tara Smith, Thomas Struth The New York Times , 8 April 2007.
  2. Blumberg, Naomi. "Thomas Struth." Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 28 July 2014 from
  3. Tara Smith, Thomas Struth The New York Times , 8 April 2007.
  4. Thomas Struth, February 4 — May 18, 2003 Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
  5. Thomas Struth: Photographs 1978–2010, 11 June – 12 September 2010 Kunsthaus Zürich.
  6. Thomas Struth, Ferdinand-von-Schill-Strasse, Dessau (1991) Tate Collection.
  7. Thomas Struth, Shinju-ku (TDK), Tokyo (1986) Tate Collection.
  8. Thomas Struth, 15 January – 28 February 2003 Archived 2 April 2012 at the Wayback Machine Monica De Cardenas, Milan.
  9. David Pagel (21 September 2002), Watching Art Watchers Is an Art in Itself Los Angeles Times .
  10. Thomas Struth, February 4 — May 18, 2003 Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
  11. Grace Glueck (17 December 1999), Thomas Struth – 'New Pictures From Paradise' The New York Times .
  12. Thomas Struth: Photographs 1978–2010, 11 June – 12 September 2010 Kunsthaus Zürich.
  13. Thomas Struth: Photographs 1978–2010, 11 June – 12 September 2010 Kunsthaus Zürich.
  14. J.S. Marcus (3 January 2014), A German Goes to Adventureland The Wall Street Journal .
  15. Liz Jobey (17 June 2011), Master of time and space Financial Times Magazine .
  16. Queen's diamond jubilee portrait revealed (23 June 2011) Daily Telegraph .
  17. Thomas Struth (Contemporary Art) Archived 25 April 2012 at the Wayback Machine Oxford University.
  18. "Alan Johnston, Thomas Struth : unconscious places". Retrieved 18 January 2021.
  19. Thomas Struth – Biography Archived 3 September 2012 at Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Donna Regina, Naples.
  20. Thomas Struth: Photographs, March 25 – April 29, 1990 Archived 10 September 2012 at The Renaissance Society, Chicago.
  21. Thomas Struth at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (02/2003)
  22. "Thomas Struth: Photographs". Retrieved 27 August 2020.
  23. "Haus der Kunst – Detail". (in German). Retrieved 26 November 2017.
  24. "Thomas Struth: Nature & Politics November 5, 2017–January 21, 2018". Saint Louis Art Museum.
  25. "RPS Awards 2016" Royal Photographic Society. Retrieved 27 October 2016
  26. Thomas Struth, Pantheon, Rome (1992) Sotheby's Contemporary Art Evening Auction, 26 June 2013, London.
  27. Judd Tully (14 November 2007), Christie’s Gonzo Sale Disproves Doubters Art+Auction.
  28. Thomas Struth (b. 1954), Pantheon, Rome (1990), Sale 1903 Christie's, Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 13 November 2007, New York.
  29. J.S. Marcus (3 January 2014), A German Goes to Adventureland The Wall Street Journal .

Further reading