Depth of Field, volume 3, no 1 (December 2012)Mattie Boom: Heavy metal beats ‘greyer sky’. Interpretations of The Netherlands by foreign photographers 1890-1930

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In 19th century ‘the picturesque’ became a real topic in photography of Dutch scenery, landscape and old cities. In recent years Dutch institutions have been adding more photographs by foreign photographers to their collections. The quest for beauty and the depiction of vast landscapes first turned into ways to express the sensation of photographing outdoors, and thus the atmosphere of the scene: ‘All is cold and grey for it is early spring and last year’s grass is only a shade deeper than the sand, which stretches hillock beyond hillock until they meet the greyer sky…’, James Craig Annan wrote while visiting the Netherlands. Pictorialists Alfred Stieglitz, Heinrich Kühn, Alvin Langdon Coburn, Robert Demachy and many others were to follow in his footsteps. This article re-examines the early interpretations, and observes crucial changes in the first decades of the 20th century, when modernism took its final turn.