Event — Conference

Searching for and researching Isidore van Kinsbergen, 19th century photography and drama in the Netherlands Indies

14-15 October 2004

On October 14-15, 2004, a seminar focusing on the Dutch-Belgian artist Isidore van Kinsbergen (Brugeds1821-Batavia 1905) was organised at Leiden by the International Institute for Asian Studies, Leiden & huis Marseille, Foundation for Photography in Amsterdam.

Van Kinsbergen was a unique artist who lived from 1851 onwards in Batavia (present Jakarta) where he was able to bring in his talents in the field of lithography, drawing and painting, stage decorating, singing and acting, drama directing and above all photography.

The purpose of this seminar was to bring together scholars from Europe, Asia and Australia, to deepen Van Kinsbergen's activities in the field of drama and photography  in the second half of the 19th century and to embed his work in the broader context of contributions by his fellow photographers.

The seminar resulted in a series of intriguing revelations. Firstly, with regard to  biographic data, an absolute necessity as there was hardly any information available, since in the one biographic sketch available, facts had intermingled with fiction. Also many so far ‘anonymous' photos could definitely be attributed to Van Kinsbergen, and quite some photographic ‘sleeping beauties' by the Dutch photographers Veen and Meessen were shown to the public in ‘première'.

In the field of drama Van Kinsbergen's co-operation with the Dutch critic Conrad Busken Huet was highlighted and the history of the Batavian theatre building along the Komedie street in Batavia.

The papers and lively subsequent discussions will benefit the first extended catalogue on Isidore van Kinsbergen, which will accompany the Van Kinsbergen exhibition in huis Marseille, Foundation for Photography, Amsterdam, opening on 10 September 2005 (For more information about huis Marseille, see: www.huismarseille.nl).



Els Barents (Director of huis Marseille, Foundation for Photography, Amsterdam)

‘Scope of the seminar and introductory words'

Gerda Theuns-de Boer (art historian, manager of photography Kern Institute,


‘The many talents of Isidore van Kinsbergen'

Saskia Asser (huis Marseille, Foundation for Photography, Amsterdam)

‘A skilful and experienced photographer. Some remarks on the technical

specifics and photo-historical context of Kinsbergen's oeuvre'

Raechelle Rubinstein (freelance writer and curator, Sydney)

‘Light drawings or Sun Inscriptions: Isidore van Kinsbergen and the first

photographs from Bali, 1862-1868'

John Falconer (Jerwood Curator of Photography, British Library, London)

‘Early art and archaeology photography in India, a comparison to Indonesia'

Jody Leewes (historian, Leiden University): ‘

The Dutch mission of 1862 to Siam and it's background'

Gerda Theuns-de Boer (art historian, manager of photography Kern Institute,


‘The distribution of the Van Kinsbergens photos: the role of World exhibitions and the influence of Van Kinsbergens photos on the work by Paul Gauguin'

Gerrit Knaap (Head HISDOC, KITLV, Leiden)

The photographic Representation of Court Life in Java, in particular Yogyakarta

 and Surakarta'

Uka Tjandrasasmita (Former Director for Archaeological conservation and restoration of

the Republic of Indonesia)

‘The value of Van Kinsbergen's photos for the study of Indonesian archaeology'

Mattie Boom (Curator of Photography RM, Amsterdam)

'Meessen's lost photographs of the Dutch Indies, the failure of an enterprise'

Janneke van Dijk (Curator of Photography KIT, Amsterdam)

'Elevating H. Veen from the foot notes'

Olf Praamstra (Literature, History, Leiden University)

'Conrad Busken Huet and Isidore Kinsbergen, - partners in theatre and


Marrik Bellen (Programme manager Asia, Utrecht University)

The Batavian Theatre, ups and downs of a 'beloved and decent building'

Hans van der Kamp (Antiquarian of books and photos of the Dutch Indies, Den Haag)

            ‘The role of Paris in the issue: Van Kinsbergen photos at the art market'

The seminar was concluded with a preview of a selection of Van Kinsbergen's  photographs in the collections of the Kern Institute and the KITLV, both in Leiden.

This small exhibition, held at the Kern Institute, greatly contributed to the general appreciation of Van Kinsbergens impressive contribution to early photography in the Dutch Indies.

Seeing a fine selection of beauties, makes one long for more. Luckely we don't have to wait that long.