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Collection of the Walter Spies Foundation Holland

Identifier: ubl142

Scope and Contents

The archive of perhaps the most important European painter in Bali before World War II. The collection contains an original painting and autograph letters by Walter Spies; school plates after paintings by Walter Spies; Balinese paintings related to Walter Spies, photocopies of letters, correspondence, manuscript and printed documentation; photographs; audio-cassettes and films


  • Creation: 1910-1990
  • Creation: Bulk 1914-1988


Language of Materials

German, English, Dutch, Indonesian

Conditions Governing Use

Regulations that apply during the use of these materials can be found on the website of Leiden University Library.

Biographical / Historical

The Walter Spies Foundation (Stichting Walter Spies Holland) was founded on 28 October 1983 in Leiden at the instigation of Hans Rhodius who was its first chairman. In 1981 Rhodius was also responsible for the foundation of the Yayasan Walter Spies Bali whose purpose was essentially to provide financial support for Balinese dancers, choreographers, musicians, and composers.

The decision which led to the Foundation in the Netherlands was triggered by the generous gift through the intermediary of Rhodius by Mrs Daisy Kölling-Spies (1905-2000) of an extensive collection of letters written by Walter, her elder brother, essentially to their mother, and also to other members of the family. The letters date from September 1915, when Walter Spies (b. Moscow 1895) was interned in Russia, to May 1940, when he was again interned in the Netherlands East Indies. Of special interest for the Indonesian studies are the letters written from October 1923, the time of the artist’s arrival in Java. His letters, distinguished by a gift of sharp observation and lively literary style, account of his many artistic and scholarly interests in Java, and in Bali where he settled permanently in 1927 until his internment in May 1940 due to his German citizenship, first in Java, then in Sumatra. When he was evacuated by ship to Ceylon (Sri Lanka), his ship was hit on 19 January 1942 by a Japanese bomb. Walter Spies was not among the survivors.

Hans Rhodius ( Antwerp 1 January 1912-Heemstede 2 May 1988) visited Indonesia in 1939 and although he missed the opportunity to meet Walter Spies personally, he saw some of his paintings in an exhibition in Batavia (Jakarta). Struck by their strange and fascinating beauty, Rhodius gradually conceived the idea of preserving the painter’s life and works in a book of memoirs for future generations. The idea was reinforced when, in 1950, he was able to acquire his first painting by Spies. He then started upon a long itinerary in the quest of the artistic and scholarly legacy of the painter, musician, photographer and researcher, seeking contact with family members, friends and those who would share their testimonies with him, almost all around the world.

The aims of the Foundation from 1983 on were not different from those Hans Rhodius had privately followed for more than thirty years. They were to establish a collection of paintings, letters, photographs by Walter Spies, to collect literature about the artist and to make this available for study purposes, to grant financial support to students of the arts of Indonesia who have a particular interest in the work of Walter Spies, to sponsor exhibitions and performances of work by Walter Spies or by artists working in the same fields as he did, namely in the visual arts, music and dance. Such artists were expected to demonstrate a blend of Eastern and Western elements in their work and so continue the impulse to cross cultural understanding exhibited by Walter Spies.


7 metres

Abstract in Dutch

Met uitzondering van originele brieven en een schilderij van Walter Spies dat rechtstreeks aan de Stichting Walter Spies Holland werd geschonken is de collectie bijeengebracht en nagelaten aan de stichting door Hans Rhodius (1912-1988), maecenas en eerste biograaf van Walter Spies (1895-1942). Rhodius’ archief omvat hoofdzakelijk zijn omvangrijke briefwisseling, handgeschreven en gedrukte documentatie, foto’s, geluidsopnamen en films met betrekking tot Walter Spies en Balinese beeldende en uitvoerende kunsten alsmede fotokopieën van brieven van en aan Walter Spies.

Abstract in English

With the exception of original letters and a painting by Walter Spies (1892-1942), the core of the loan collection was brought together by Hans Rhodius (1912-1988), patron of the arts, first biographer of Walter Spies (1895-1942), and founder of the Walter Spies Foundation (Stichting Walter Spies Holand). Rhodius’ archives, donated to the Foundation, consist mainly of his extensive correspondence, manuscript and printed documents, photographs, recordings and films related to Walter Spies and Balinese visual and performing arts, and photocopies of letters by and addressed to Walter Spies.


- Spies 1-7 Painting by Walter Spies, Balinese paintings, school plates after paintings by W. Spies.

- Spies 8-9 Original letters by Walter Spies.

- Spies 10-16 Photocopies of letters by W. Spies, and related documents.

- Spies 17-20 Correspondence and documentation pertaining to the biography of W. Spies by H. Rhodius, 1953-1965.

- Spies 21-34 Correspondence and documentation pertaining to W. Spies and Balinese art, in particular a planned biography of W. Spies by H. Rhodius and J. Stowell, 1978-1987.

- Spies 34-35 Documents pertaining to music and ethnomusicology.

- Spies 36-42 Scenario and script by Rhodius of a planned film 'Dare to live: Walter Spies painter and musician and related documents'.

- Spies 43-46 Archive of the Walter Spies Foundation build up by H. Rhodius,1983-1988.

- Spies 47-48 Printed documentation on W. Spies and Balinese art.

- Spies 49 Miscellaneous documents added to the collection after 1988.

- Spies 50-52 Audio-cassettes. Interviews and Balinese music.

- Spies 53-63 Photographs.

- Spies 64-66 Films.

- Spies 67 Lay-out of the book Walter Spies and Balinese art, 1980.

- Spies 68 Copperplates for the Illustrations of Reichtum und Schönheit des Lebens: Walter Spies [etc.], 1964.

- Spies 69 Offprints of H. Rhodius’ article on W. Spies, 1985.

- Spies 70 Booklets ‘Walter Spies Stichting Holland’.

- Spies 71 Publications on W. Spies and Balinese art from the library of Hans Rhodius.

Physical Location

Leiden University Library, Special Collections

Other Finding Aids

By way of the inventory

Custodial History

Hans Rhodius bequeathed to the Stichting Walter Spies Holland his extensive correspondence, photocopies of letters by Walter Spies, and all kind of manuscript, typed, printed, audio and visual documents related to Walter Spies and Balinese arts, with the clause that the collection would be transferred to the Leiden University Library. The archives of the Foundation build up under Rhodius’ chairmanship (1983-1988) are also part of the bequest. The painting by Walter Spies in the collection was donated by Mrs Luyten to the Foundation in 1988, after Rhodius’ death.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was given on permanent loan to the Leiden University Library in 1988 and 1989.


No future additions are to be expected

Related Materials

Collection M.J.A. van Wessem (Or. 25.188)

Collection Daisy Spies (Or. 25.773

Collection Galestin (Or. 20.965, inv. nrs. 225-238)

Collection Paul Spies (Or. 22.309, inv. nr. 15)

Collection C.J. Grader (Or. 26.645, correspondence)

Microfilms of material held in and mostly outside the Leiden University Library:

  1. A 1019. Washington D.C., Lib. of Congress: Correspondentie Walter Spies/Belo, Mead, Bateson, Witsen Elias, etc.
  2. A 1011. Brieven Walter Spies
  3. A 1206. Berlijn (DDR), Leo-Spies-Archiv: archivalia m.b.t. Walter Spies
  4. A 1587. Berlijn (DDR), Daisy Spies, Fotoboeken Walter Spies
  5. A 1671. Catonsville MD 21228: Spies-materialen aanwezig bij de Amerikaanse tak van de familie Spies
  6. A 1080. Correspondentie Spies sr. - Amerikaanse consul te Moskou (1914)
  7. A 1038. Correspondentie Walter Spies - Carl Gotsch
  8. A 1509. Correspondentie Walter Spies - Carl Gotsch, uit prive collectie
  9. A 1021. Brieven Walter Spies - Jaap Kunst
  10. A 1020. Brieven Walter Spies - Stutterheim
  11. A 1022. Materialen Marianne van Wessem, m.b.t. Spies
  12. A 1081. Notitieboeken Walter Spies: over Arabisch, hieroglyph¬ en, etc.


  • Gruyter, W. Jos de (ed.), Walter Spies, 1895-1942: Haags Gemeentemuseum 2/7-16/8 1964, Den Haag, 1964 [exhibition catalogue].
  • Hitchcock, Michael and Lucy Norris, Bali: the imaginary museum: the photographs of Walter Spies and Beryl de Zoete, Kuala Lumpur, 1995
  • Hobohm, Sarwar, Bali: the Walter Spies Foundation, Indonesia Circle 28 (1982), pp. 47-48.
  • Hobohm, Sarwar, The Walter Spies Foundation Holland (Stichting Walter Spies Holland), Indonesia Circle 35 (1984) pp. 70-71
  • Rhodius, Hans, Reichtum und Schönheit des Lebens: Walter Spies (Maler und Musiker auf Bali 1895-1942) : eine Autobiographie in Briefen mit ergänzenden Erinnerungen, ’s Gravenhage 1964
  • Rhodius, Hans and John Darling (John Stowell ed.), Walter Spies and Balinese art, Zutphen 1980
  • Spruit, Ruud, Kunstenaars op Bali: W.O.J. Nieuwenkamp, Rudolf Bonnet, Walter Spies, Willem Hofker, A.J. Le Mayeur, Arie Smit, Amsterdam 1995
  • Stowell, John, Walter Spies: a life in art, Jakarta 2011
  • Zoete, Beryl de and Walter Spies, Dance and drama in Bali, London 1938.
  • Scalliet, Marie-Odette, De collectie-Galestin in de Leidse Universiteitsbibliotheek, Leiden 2004, pp. 71-76
  • Stichting Walter Spies Holland, Leiden 1983


The material of this collection can be requested at the Special Collections Reading Room.

Processing Information

In 2009-2010 the state of conservation of the Walter Spies collection was checked, and where necessary improved. The collection was repacked and reorganised. An inventory was prepared.



Collection guide of the collection of the Walter Spies Foundation Holland (1910-1990)
Collectie van de Stichting Walter Spies Holland
Marie-Odette Scalliet, 2009
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Beschrijving is in het Engels.

Revision Statements

  • 3 June 2020: latest update

Repository Details

Part of the Leiden University Libraries Archives & Collections Repository

Witte Singel 27
Leiden 2311 BG Netherlands
+31 71 527 2857