Soon after the invention of photography in the 19th century, photographers developed an urge not merely to record reality, but to compete with 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 featured in the work of fine art photographers in the past, too. 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.
The exhibition is being put together in close collaboration with Leiden University Libraries, and it will feature works from the photography collection of the university’s former Print Room.
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, and designed by Typography and Other Serious Matters (Wbooks, €24.95).