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Exhibition Photography Becomes Art - Photo-Secession in Holland 1890-1937

In collaboration with the Fotomuseum Den Haag, Leiden University Libraries organizes the exhibition Photography becomes Art - Photo-Secession in Holland 1890-1937. The exhibition shows a selection of 65 early art photos from the Leiden University photography collection. It’s the first time that early Dutch art photography is being exhibited as a sector-wide, coherent movement.

The exhibition comprises known and unknown works by Charles E. Mögle, George H. Breitner, Henri Berssenbrugge, Bernard Eilers, Johan Huijsen, Emmy Andriesse, Eva Besnyö and Piet Zwart. The exhibition is on view from 7 September to 8 December 2019 in the Fotomuseum Den Haag.

Henri Berssenbrugge, gelatin silver print, Collection: Leiden University Libraries.

Pictorialism and New Photography

Soon after the invention of photography in the 19th century, photographers developed an urge not merely to record reality, but to compete with (more traditional?) visual artists. In the Netherlands the ‘pictorialists’ adopted themes and compositions from painting. They drew inspiration both from 17th-century genre art and from the landscapes of the Hague School. It was this pictorialism that Piet Zwart and his New Photography rejected.
But, the dividing line between these two Dutch photography movements is not as sharp as has long been thought. The typical features of New Photography – unexpected cropping, geometric compositions and motion blurring – had already featured in the work of fine art photographers in the past for some time. Photography Becomes Art – Photo-Secession in Holland 1890-1937 will tell the story of early Dutch fine art photography and show that the move from pictorialism to New Photography was more of a gradual shift than a sudden break.

George H. Breitner, Nude with Black Stockings, ca. 1895, gelatin silver print. Collection: Leiden University Libraries.


The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue of the same name, compiled and introduced by Dr. Maartje van den Heuvel, Leiden University Libraries’ photography curator. The catalogue was designed by Typography and Other Serious Matters (Wbooks, €24.95).


You are very welcome at the official opening of the exhibition. The opening will take place in the Fotomuseum Den Haag on Friday 6 September at 6.30 p.m. You can register here until 30 August. The doors of the museum are open from 6 p.m.

Pre-announcement symposium
On 22 November a symposium on Art Photography will be organized by Dutch photography society, ScherpteDiepte,  Fotomuseum Den Haag and Leiden University Libraries. (Further information to be announced shortly.)

The exhibition and accompanying publication have been made possible by financial support from Leiden University (Faculty of Humanities and Leiden University Libraries), Stichting De Gijselaar-Hintzenfonds, and Stichting Pieter Haverkorn van Rijsewijk.

Photo banner:  Emmy Andriesse, Cyclists passing train rails, The Hague 1935-1937, gelatin silver print, 30 x 40 cm, modern print by Harm Botman of original negative, 2008, inv.no. PK-F-2008-0113. Collection: Leiden University Libraries.

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