Depth of Field, volume 3, no 1 (December 2012)Hans Rooseboom: Changing Amsterdam : A city photographed by Jacobus van Eck, c. 1917-1940

To refer to this article use this url:


Jacobus van Eck (1973-1946) is mainly known as the private collector of Amsterdam topographic views (prints, drawings, maps, and some paintings). His collection also includes photographs made from c. 1880 onwards that can be considered their photographic counterparts. His main interest was the 19th century in which the outskirts of the Dutch capital quickly and radically changed as the population doubled between 1850 and 1900. As the old town – within the 17th-century walls – could no longer house this surplus, Amsterdam started developing the surroundings that had never been used systematically for building houses and other buildings. Van Eck had known these rural areas as a child and saw them change with some sense of nostalgia. However, he managed in not being overwhelmed by sadness and dislike of all things new and modern. Especially after he started making photographs himself in 1917 he not only depicted what was disappearing but also gave attention to the newly built quarters. This article explores for the first time the scope, meaning and ambitions of Van Eck’s own photographs and analyses what they add to much better and wider known photographs of Amsterdam, especially those made by Jacob Olie, George Hendrik Breitner, and Bernard Eilers. Published and unpublished documents give an insight into what Van Eck’s intentions were and how his photographs are to be seen.