ArtListings > News > Archive > Major retrospective of photographs by George Hendrik Breitner in Kunsthal Rotterdam

Major retrospective of photographs by George Hendrik Breitner in Kunsthal Rotterdam

17 July '12 by the editors

In cooperation with the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam The Kunsthal Rotterdam proudly presents a major retrospective of photographs that the Rotterdam-born photographer George Hendrik Breitner (1857-1923) took around 1900.

Breitner is known primarily as an eccentric painter of cityscapes, nudes and genre studies. This exhibition, however, shows him to be one of the most interesting photographers of his day, recording life in Amsterdam and other large cities such as Paris and Berlin in a style that was singularly personal and modern. He created many snapshot-style photographs on the streets as well as informal images of people's home life. The photographs he took were less static than the typical professional photographs of his contemporaries. Breitner digressed from standard practices and experimented with technology. He opted for extremely high or extremely low perspectives, photographed into the light and managed to portray scenes of urban vitality using deliberately blurred images.

Breitner began to take photographs in around 1889. He was one of the first to explore the potential offered by hand-held cameras, which had only just been introduced at the time. In the fast-changing, dynamic environment of the city, he took photographs of street life, ordinary passers-by, housemaids and labourers. The thirty-odd photographs that remain of the time he spent in Paris are mainly of the many horses that dominated the street scene back then. The exhibition Pioneer of Street Photography consists of a wide selection of Breitner's photographs, including many cityscapes and images of street life in Amsterdam and Paris, as well as 35 original enlargements in impressive large format from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. The exhibition also includes several dozen original small prints and modern enlargements of Breitner's negatives, all from the collection of the Netherlands Institute for Art History in The Hague.

The Dutch painter George Breitner was born in 1857 in Rotterdam. In 1886, he moved to Amsterdam, the city he would live and work in until the day he died. It was also the city in which he created his greatest works, works depicting city life and with which he made a name for himself. The exhibition George Hendrik Breitner, Pioneer of Street Photography illustrates that as well as a painter, he was also a photographer of great and unique talent.

The exhibition has been made possible by the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, the Netherlands Institute for Art History, The Hague and Institut Néerlandais, Paris.


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