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Breitner project

The RKD is publishing the first digital overview in English of photographs by the Amsterdam Impressionist painter George Hendrik Breitner (1857-1923). A total of 2,300 original photos from the RKD collection will be accessible to an international audience from November 2011.

Open the Breitner monograph

Kimono meisje
George Hendrik Breitner, Girl in kimono (Geesje Kwak), 1893, RKD Photographic Collection

Until now Breitner’s photos have primarily been presented as studies for his paintings. However, the photographs are also fine and important works of art in their own right and they offer a unique picture of city life around 1900.

Breitner, gezicht op het singel
George Hendrik Breitner, View of the Singel in Amsterdam, 1889 – 1915, RKD Photographic Collection

Breitner’s original prints and negatives were donated to the RKD in 1961, exactly 50 years ago. Before then it was not known that Breitner, besides being a painter, was also an important photographer. Individual photos have regularly been included in exhibitions and publications. In 2011 high-resolution scans were produced of all the photographs so that the originals can be safely stored in optimal conditions.

A new online publication will make all 2,300 photographs available to the public for the first time. An introductory text by photographic historian Hans Rooseboom, curator of the Rijksmuseum, discusses the importance of Breitner’s photographic oeuvre. In order to acquaint a wide, international audience with Breitner the photographer, the publication appeared in English as well as Dutch. George Hendrik Breitner. Fotograaf /George Hendrik Breitner. Photographer is published on the RKD website in November 2011.

Breiner, twee vrouwen in de sneeuw
G.H. Breitner, Two women in the snow, c.1889 – 1915, RKD Photographic Collection

Coinciding with the online publication of Breitner’s photographs, the Van Gogh Museum (Amsterdam) will host the exhibition Snapshot. Painters and Photography, 1888-1915 (from 14 October), in which Breitner’s work is for the first time presented in the context of other nineteenth-century painters who liked to use the camera. Thereafter the exhibition will be on view in the US, at the Phillips Collection (Washington D.C.) and the Indianapolis Museum of Art. In collaboration with the Rijksmuseum the Institut Néerlandais (Paris) is also dedicating an exhibition to Breitner’s photographic work, George Hendrik Breitner – Pioneer of street photography, opening in November.


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