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George Hendrik Breitner photography collection

Identifier: ubl278

Scope and Contents

Collection comprising 84 photographs, 2 albums with 268 photos, 8 glass negatives, 3 drawings and a camera of the painter George H. Breitner.

In his photography Breitner investigated the visual possibilities of representing movement and light, which he then worked out further in his painting. Among other things, he photographed casual encounters with passers-by on the street. He photographed models in his studio, sometimes nude, or clothed in robes suggestive of the Orient. The subjects that he photographed, the aesthetic of the fleeting and the seemingly random cropping have strong parallels in the paintings during the transition from late 19th century realism to early modernism. Other themes, Breitner loved, were military and cavalry subjects, for which he travelled to barracks and military exercises in Boxtel and Elspeet, amongst others.


  • Creation: 1880 - 1923

Conditions Governing Access

The albums, negatives and the camera are only available with special permission of the photography curator.

Conditions Governing Use

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

Biographical / Historical

George Hendrik Breitner (1857-1923) was born in Rotterdam. He chose to become an artist on the age of seventeen. After studying at the Royal Academy of Arts in The Hague, he moved to Amsterdam to continue his art education at the Rijksacademie. During the rest of his life as an impressionist painter in Amsterdam, he would always produce photography as well. Breitner has made a large number of photographs, but he never had the intention of presenting them publicly as art.


84 photographs, 2 albums with 268 photos, 8 glass negatives, 3 drawings and a camera

Language of Materials


Abstract in Dutch

Collectie van honderden foto’s en enkele albums, negatieven, tekeningen en een camera van de Nederlandse impressionistische schilder George Hendrik Breitner. Breitner gebruikte foto’s als studiemateriaal voor zijn schilderijen. Hij onderzocht de artistieke mogelijkheden van fotografie in genres en thema’s als portret, naakt, Amsterdamse stadsgezichten en cavalerie. Deze collectie bereikte Universiteit Leiden via de schilder K. Maks en verzamelaar A. Osterholt.

Abstract in English

Collection of hundreds of photographs and some albums, negatives, drawings and one camera of the Dutch impressionist painter George Hendrik Breitner. Breitner used photography as study material for his paintings, and explored the artistic potency in it in popular genres and themes like portraits, nudes, Amsterdam street views and cavalry. This collection reached Leiden University through painter K. Maks and collector A. Osterholt.

Physical Location

Leiden University Library, Special Collections

Other Finding Aids

Main access to this collection is through the online catalogue.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

In 1924, a year after Breitner’s death, the painter’s pupil and friend Kees Maks (1876-1967), bought Breitner’s photography and camera at the Frederik Muller auction in Amsterdam. When old, Maks sold and donated much of Breitner’s photography to Maks’ friend and Amsterdam art collector A. Osterholt, who wrote the book Breitner en zijn foto’s (Osterholt 1974). Osterholt sold this collection to the Leiden University Print Room in 1984. The purchase was financially supported by the Rembrandt Association (the first grant this association ever made available for an acquisition of photography), Hendrik Muller’s Vaderlandsch Fonds, the Leiden University Fund and the Friends of the Print Room Foundation.


The collection might be supplemented with incidental future acquisitions.

Related Materials

Leiden’s special collections also comprise prints by Breitner (of varying provenance) and 29 of his drawings in the Collection Welcker (recognizable by the accession numbers starting with PK-T-AW). All these images are accessible through Leiden University’s online catalogue.

Separated Materials

Important other collections of photographs by George H. Breitner are in the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, Amsterdam City Archives and the RKD – Netherlands Institute for Art History.


  • Osterholt, A., Breitner en zijn foto’s. [Amsterdam] 1974.
  • Heijbroek, J.F. en E. Schmitz, Breitner in Amsterdam. [Bussum] 2014.
  • Heuvel, M. van den en Susanne van der Wolf, ‘Van verlaten straten naar stadsrumoer. Stadsfotografie rond 1900’, in: F. van Dijke, Rumoer in de stad : de schilders van tachtig. Den Haag/Zwolle 2017.
  • Veen, A. van, Amsterdam 1900 : foto’s van Olie, Breitner, Eilers en tijdgenoten. [Amsterdam/Bussum] 2016.
  • Veen, A. van, R. Bergsma en T. de Ruiter, G. H. Breitner : fotograaf en schilder van het Amsterdamse stadsgezicht. [Amsterdam] 1997.


The materials can be requested in the online catalogue. It can be consulted in the Special Collections Reading Room. Photographs are especially vulnerable for warmth and humidity. They are being conserved in specially climatized storage. Therefore, photographs from our collection are placed at your disposal only after an acclimatization period of 24 hours.

Processing Information

The photographs, albums, negatives, drawings and the camera have a callnumber starting with PK-F-GHB.

Collection guide of the George Hendrik Breitner photography collection (1880 - 1923)
Collectie Fotografie van George Hendrik Breitner
Maartje van den Heuvel, 2018
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Beschrijving is in het Engels.

Revision Statements

  • 15 February 2018: latest update

Repository Details

Part of the Leiden University Libraries Archives & Collections Repository

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