Thomas Struth

Last updated
Thomas Struth
Struth thomas skstiftungkoeln 090108.jpg
Born 1954
Geldern, North Rhine-Westphalia, West Germany
Nationality German
Education Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf
Known for Photography
Notable workMuseum Photographs (1989–2002)
Movement Düsseldorf School of Photography

Thomas Struth (born 1954) is a German photographer who is best known for his Museum Photographs, family portraits and 1970s black and white photographs of the streets of Düsseldorf and New York. Struth currently lives and works in Berlin and New York. [1]

Germans citizens or native-born people of Germany; or people of descent to the ethnic and ethnolinguistic group associated with the German language

Germans are a Germanic ethnic group native to Central Europe, who share a common German ancestry, culture and history. German is the shared mother tongue of a substantial majority of ethnic Germans.

Photographer person who takes photographs

A photographer is a person who makes photographs.

Düsseldorf Place in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

Düsseldorf is the capital and second-largest city of the most populous German federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia after Cologne, as well as the seventh-largest city in Germany. with a population of 617,280. At the confluence of the Rhine and its tributary Düssel, the city lies in the centre of both the Rhine-Ruhr and the Rhineland Metropolitan Regions with the Cologne Bonn region to its south and the Ruhr to its north. Most of the city lies on the right bank of the Rhine. The city is the largest in the German Low Franconian dialect area. "Dorf" meaning "village" in German, the "-dorf" suffix is unusual in the German-speaking area for a settlement of Düsseldorf's size.


Early life and education

Born to ceramic potter Gisela Struth and bank director Heinrich Struth in Geldern, Germany, [2] 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. [3] In 2007, he was an artist in residence at the Atlantic Center for the Arts.

Geldern Place in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

Geldern is a city in the federal German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. It is part of the district of Cleves, which is part of the Düsseldorf administrative region.

Kunstakademie Düsseldorf art school in Düsseldorf, Germany

The Kunstakademie Düsseldorf is the Arts Academy of the city of Düsseldorf, Germany. Notable artists who attended the academy include Joseph Beuys, Gerhard Richter, Gotthard Graubner, Ruth Rogers-Altmann, Sigmar Polke, Anselm Kiefer and photographers Thomas Ruff, Thomas Demand, Thomas Struth, Andreas Gursky and Candida Höfer. In the stairway of its main entrance, are engraved the Words: "Für unsere Studenten nur das Beste".

Gerhard Richter German visual artist

Gerhard Richter is a German visual artist. Richter has produced abstract as well as photorealistic paintings, and also photographs and glass pieces. He is widely regarded as one of the most important contemporary German artists and several of his works have set record prices at auction.

In 2007, Struth married author Tara Bray Smith in New York. [4]

Tara Bray Smith is an American author. She has produced the books West of Then: A Mother, a Daughter, and a Journey Past Paradise (2004) and Betwixt (2007).


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 [5] on Düsseldorf’s deserted streets, each of them obeying a strict logic of central symmetry. [6] The compositions are simple and the photographs are neither staged nor digitally manipulated in post-production. [7] 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. [8]

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. [9] 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.

MoMA PS1 is one of the largest art institutions in the United States dedicated solely to contemporary art. It is located in the Long Island City neighborhood in the borough of Queens, New York City. In addition to its exhibitions, the institution organizes the Sunday Sessions performance series, the Warm Up summer music series, and the Young Architects Program with the Museum of Modern Art. MoMA PS1 has been affiliated with the Museum of Modern Art since January 2000 and, as of 2013, attracts about 200,000 visitors a year.

Thomas Schütte is a German contemporary artist. He sculpts, creates architectural designs, and draws. He lives and works in Düsseldorf.

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. [10] 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. [11] 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." [12]

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; [13] his first eight large-format Pictures from Paradise were created in 1998 in the Daintree Rainforest in Australia. [14] Between 1995 and 2003, he produced a series of photographs featuring groups of people gathered at emblematic locations, whether as tourists or as pilgrims. [15]

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. [16] In 2014, Struth presented a series of pictures in which he again penetrates key places of human imagination in order 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), [17] 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. [18] 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. [19]

Meanwhile, Struth continues to add to his collection of family portraits. [20] 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. [21]

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. [22]


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.[ citation needed ] 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. [23] Struth later had his first solo exhibition in the U.S. at The Renaissance Society in Chicago in 1990. [24] 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. [25] 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 ]

Principal exhibitions


Art market

Struth usually works in editions of ten prints. [29] In 2007, his work Pantheon, Rome (1994) was sold to David Zwirner [30] at Christie's New York for more than $1,000,000. [31] In 2014, an earlier version of Pantheon, Rome executed in 1992 sold for $1.25 million at Sotheby's London site. [32]

Struth has been exhibiting at Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin, since 1987; at Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, since 1989; and at Monica De Cardenas, Milan, since 1993.

Selected bibliography

Related Research Articles

Wolfgang Tillmans artist

Wolfgang Tillmans is a German photographer. His diverse body of work is distinguished by observation of his surroundings and an ongoing investigation of the photographic medium’s foundations.

Bernd and Hilla Becher German conceptual artist duo

Bernhard "Bernd" Becher, and Hilla Becher, née Wobeser, were German conceptual artists and photographers working as a collaborative duo. They are best known for their extensive series of photographic images, or typologies, of industrial buildings and structures, often organised in grids. As the founders of what has come to be known as the ‘Becher school’ or the ‘Düsseldorf School’ they influenced generations of documentary photographers and artists. They have been awarded the Erasmus Prize and the Hasselblad Award.

Marcel Broodthaers artist, filmmaker, poet

Marcel Broodthaers was a Belgian poet, filmmaker and artist with a highly literate and often witty approach to creating art works.

Andreas Gursky German artist and photographer

Andreas Gursky is a German photographer and professor at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, Germany.

Michael Ruetz works as artist and author. He is a German photographer.

Thomas Ruff German photographer

Thomas Ruff is a German photographer who lives and works in Düsseldorf, Germany. He has been described as “a master of edited and reimagined images”.

Darren Almond English artist

Darren James Almond is an English artist, based in London. He was nominated for the 2005 Turner Prize.

Günther Förg artist

Günther Förg was a German painter, graphic designer, sculptor and photographer. His abstract style was influenced by American abstract painting.

Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen art museum

The Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen is the art collection of the German Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia, in Düsseldorf. United by this institution are three different exhibition venues: the K20 at Grabbeplatz, the K21 in the Ständehaus, and the Schmela Haus. The Kunstsammlung was founded in 1961 by the state government of North Rhine-Westphalia as a foundation under private law for the purpose of displaying the art collection and expanding it through new acquisitions.

Candida Höfer German photographer

Candida Höfer is a Cologne, Germany-based photographer and a former student of Bernd and Hilla Becher. Like other Becher students – Axel Hütte, Andreas Gursky, Thomas Ruff, Thomas Struth – Höfer's work is known for technical perfection and a strictly conceptual approach. From 1997 to 2000, she taught as professor at the Hochschule für Gestaltung, Karlsruhe. Höfer is the recipient of the 2018 Outstanding Contribution to Photography award, as part of the Sony World Photography awards.

Rineke Dijkstra Dutch photographer

Rineke Dijkstra is a Dutch photographer. She lives and works in Amsterdam. Dijkstra has been awarded an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Photographic Society, the 1999 Citibank Private Bank Photography Prize and the 2017 Hasselblad Award.

Thomas Demand German photographer

Thomas Cyrill Demand is a German sculptor and photographer. He currently lives and works in Berlin and Los Angeles, and teaches at the University of Fine Arts, Hamburg.

David Bradley Armstrong was an American photographer based in New York, United States.

Katharina Fritsch German sculptor

Katharina Fritsch is a German sculptor. She lives and works in Düsseldorf, Germany.

Lothar Baumgarten German artist

Lothar Baumgarten was a German conceptual artist, based in New York and Berlin. His work includes installation and film.

Thomas Huber (artist) Swiss artist

Thomas Huber is a Swiss artist who lived and worked in Mettmann near Düsseldorf for several years and is currently resident in Berlin.

Hans Danuser is a Swiss artist and photographer. His first mayor work, the cycle In Vivo, brought him international fame, therein he broke several societal taboos with respect to genetic research and nuclear physics. Since the 1990s, in addition to his photographic studies, Danuser has focused increasingly on transdisciplinary (research) projects in the arts and sciences.

Rita McBride American sculptor

Rita McBride is an American artist and sculptor. She is based in Los Angeles and Düsseldorf. Alongside her artistic practice, McBride is a professor at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, and served as its director until 2017. McBride is married to Glen Rubsamen, an American painter from Los Angeles.

Frantiček Klossner is a Swiss artist based in Bern, known for creating video art, installations, performance, drawings and visual poetry.

Jakob Tuggener was a Swiss photographer, filmmaker and painter.


  1. Thomas Struth, May 5 - June 19, 2010 Marian Goodman, New York.
  2. Tara Smith, Thomas Struth New York Times , April 8, 2007.
  3. Blumberg, Naomi. "Thomas Struth." Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2014-07-28 from
  4. Tara Smith, Thomas Struth New York Times , April 8, 2007.
  5. Thomas Struth, February 4 — May 18, 2003 Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
  6. Thomas Struth: Photographs 1978-2010, 11 June - 12 September 2010 Kunsthaus Zürich.
  7. Thomas Struth, Ferdinand-von-Schill-Strasse, Dessau (1991) Tate Collection.
  8. Thomas Struth, Shinju-ku (TDK), Tokyo (1986) Tate Collection.
  9. Thomas Struth: Making Time, April 4 - 28, 2007 Marian Goodman, New York.
  10. Thomas Struth, 15 January - 28 February 2003 Archived 2 April 2012 at the Wayback Machine . Monica De Cardenas, Milan.
  11. David Pagel (September 21, 2002), Watching Art Watchers Is an Art in Itself Los Angeles Times .
  12. Thomas Struth, February 4 — May 18, 2003 Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
  13. Grace Glueck (December 17, 1999), Thomas Struth -- 'New Pictures From Paradise' New York Times .
  14. Thomas Struth: Photographs 1978-2010, 11 June - 12 September 2010 Kunsthaus Zürich.
  15. Thomas Struth: Photographs 1978-2010, 11 June - 12 September 2010 Kunsthaus Zürich.
  16. Thomas Struth, May 5 - June 19, 2010 Marian Goodman.
  17. J.S. Marcus (January 3, 2014), A German Goes to Adventureland Wall Street Journal .
  18. Thomas Struth, January 10 - February 22, 2014 Marian Goodman.
  19. Thomas Struth at Art Basel Parcours, June 11 - 17, 2018 Marian Goodman.
  20. Liz Jobey (June 17, 2011), Master of time and space Financial Times Magazine .
  21. Queen's diamond jubilee portrait revealed (June 23, 2011) Daily Telegraph .
  22. Thomas Struth (Contemporary Art) Oxford University.
  23. Thomas Struth - Biography Archived 2012-09-03 at Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Donna Regina, Naples.
  24. Thomas Struth: Photographs, March 25 – April 29, 1990 Archived September 10, 2012, at The Renaissance Society, Chicago.
  25. Thomas Struth at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (02/2003)
  26. "Haus der Kunst - Detail". (in German). Retrieved 2017-11-26.
  27. Thomas Struth, January 10 – February 22, 2014 Marian Goodman, New York.
  28. "RPS Awards 2016" Royal Photographic Society. Accessed 27 October 2016
  29. Thomas Struth, Pantheon, Rome (1992) Sotheby's Contemporary Art Evening Auction, 26 June 2013, London.
  30. Judd Tully (November 14, 2007), Christie’s Gonzo Sale Disproves Doubters ARTINFO.
  31. Thomas Struth (b. 1954), Pantheon, Rome (1990), Sale 1903 Christie's, Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 13 November 2007, New York.
  32. J.S. Marcus (January 3, 2014), A German Goes to Adventureland Wall Street Journal .