PhotoLexicon, Volume 5, nr. 9 (September 1988) (en)

Louis Apol

Ingeborg Th. Leijerzapf


Louis Apol became known as the ‘winter painter’, based on the simple fact that he was a painter with a preference for winter landscapes. It was because of this interest that he took part in Willem Barentsz’s expedition to Nova Zembla. During his years in the Dutch province of Gelderland (1886 to 1892), Apol also emerged as an amateur photographer. He photographed his family and took landscape photos as preliminary studies for his paintings.




Lodewijk Franciscus Hendrik (Louis) Apol is born on 6 September in The Hague.


Apol works as an apprentice of the landscape painter, J.F. Hoppenbrouwers, in The Hague. Following Hoppenbrouwers’ death in July 1866, Apol briefly enters an apprenticeship with another landscape painter in The Hague, P. Stortenbeker.

Circa 1867-‘72

Apol studies for approximately six years at the Academie voor Beeldende Kunsten (‘Academy of Fine Arts’) in The Hague. He states this on an undated questionnaire of N. van Harpen (likely concerning an inventorisation for the anonymous series of articles, Onze Schilders (‘Our Painters’), in Maandblad voor Beeldende Kunsten (‘Monthly of the Fine Arts’), 1925.

Circa 1879

For the duration of one year, Apol is ‘pensionaire’ (‘subsidisee’) of King William III (He receives a one-year stipend. This form of financial support is a precursor of the present ‘Royal Subsidy’ for artists).


Apol travels with Willem Barentsz’s expedition to Nova Zembla. He makes numerous sketches during this journey. On board, he is considered a member of the ship’s crew, along with all of the duties expected with such a position.


Louis Apol moves to Rheden (Gelderland) on 18 June 1886. In the same year, he weds Catharina Elisabeth Kraijesteijn of Rosendaal. Two daughters are born from this marriage: Henriëtte Catharina in 1887, Johanna in 1890. On 25 May 1892, Apol returns with his family to The Hague.


Apol is invited to be a member on the jury for the Tentoonstelling ter bevordering der Photographie (‘Exhibition for the Promotion of Photography’), which is held from 1 to 10 October in Utrecht.


Apol is a jury member for the Internationale Fotografie tentoonstelling (‘International Photography Exhibition’) in Arnhem, organised by the Geldersche Amateur Fotografen Vereeniging (‘Gelderland Amateur Photographers Association’), which is held from 14 to 29 July.


Assisted by the painters, Hendrik Otto van Thol, Hendr. Kleyn and Willem Oppenoorth, Louis Apol makes a painted panorama depicting Nova Zembla for the Panorama Maatschappij (‘Panorama Society’) on the Plantage Middenlaan in Amsterdam. The panorama is open for viewing until 1901. Willem Oppenoorth is photographed during his work on the panorama, sitting on scaffolding. This anonymous photo is preserved in the collection of the Print Room of Leiden University. In 1897, P. (Gustaaf) Oosterhuis makes a series of photos of the Nova Zembla panorama, which is presented in an album to Her Majesty Queen Emma and Princess Wilhelmina during their visit to the Panorama in April 1897.


Apol takes a trip to the United States, including a visit to Niagara Falls.


Louis Apol dies on 22 November in The Hague.


Louis Apol’s photo legacy – comprising twenty photos that can be attributed to him with certainty and several photos that were possibly taken by him, all preserved by his daughters – is acquired from the family’s possessions by the Print Room of Leiden University through the intermediation of the art dealer, Peter Albricht.


During his life, Louis Apol was a desired, but also a criticised, landscape painter. He was fated with success at a very early age: he rececived his first gold medal at the age of twenty-two for work exhibited in The Hague. Paintings such as his much-praised Winter in het Haagsche Bos (‘Winter in the Hague Woods’) of circa 1875, earned him immediate notoreity as a painter of wintery landscapes. The etchings done by C.L. Dake and P.J. Arendszen after Apol’s winterscapes were beloved ‘gifts for all occasions’.

His adventurous trip to Nova Zembla in 1880 placed him once again in the public spotlight. This early success, however, also proved to have a somewhat negative influence on Apol’s development. In his booklet, Onze Schilders in Pulchri Studio (‘Our Painters at Pulchri Studio’), the art critic, Johan Gram, said the following about Apol: ‘As richly gifted as Apol is, he creates numerous pleasing little works with a minumum of effort, with the drawback of their quality now and then being, that the excessive ease with which he produces them is betrayed by their superficiality.’ Notwithstanding, Apol – who according to Gram looked much more like a dandy than an artist, in view of his stylish clothing – produced work of quality that brought earned him numerous awards.

Apol not only painted, but also took photographs. As far as is known, it was only during his years in Gelderland that he practiced photography as a hobby. A notice in the Weekblad voor Fotografie (‘Weekly of Photography’) of 1894 made mention not only of his function as a jury member for a photography exhibition, but also of his status as an amateur photographer. More significant, however, is the solid proof of Apol’s activities in this field: the photos he took in the vicinity of Arnhem.

These landscape shots are taken during various seasons and occasionally include people as figures. The winter scenes are predominant in number, and as such, Apol’s prefrence for this genre is as well observable in his photography. Based on the technique of the photos, the surroundings in which they were taken, and the clothing of the people depicted, one can date the photos to about 1890. At this time, Apol lived in Rheden, a town nearby Arnhem. In those days, the Veluwezoom National Park was a favoured place to stay for many painters of the Hague School.

The region was referred to as the ‘Barbizon’ of the Netherlands. Villages such as Oosterbeek, Doorwerth and Wolfheze – the latter with its centuries old, Legendary Wodan Oaks – were inspirational motifs for the paintings of artists such as Gerard Bilders, Anton Mauve and Willem Maris. Apol himself photographed a visit to the Wodan Oaks.

In Apol’s photographic legacy, several family photos have been preserved, including several of his wife and children. On the basis of technical similarities with his landscape photos, these may as well be attributed to him. They are spontaneous, unpretentious snapshots, with no identifiable ties to his painterly work.

Louis Apol probably photographed with a plate camera with a format of up to 12×15 cm. He made direct contact prints on albumen paper from his glass negatives.

This albumen paper was generally extremely thin and curled easily. For this reason, one usually glued them onto cardboard. Apol used very simple pieces of cardboard for this purpose, not much larger than the photos and without applying any decoration. He pasted his photos on both sides of the cardboard and did not take the trouble to cut the edges off neatly. For the goal that Apol had in mind, i.e. photographing snowy landscapes, the level of contrast achievable with photographic plates was actually insufficient in the 1880s. It is therefore conceivable that Apol was somewhat disappointed with the results, and for this reason, did not continue these photographic experiments for very long.

The way in which the photos were pasted onto the cardboard indicates that Apol had no other intentions with his photography than to make and use them for his own pleasure and for his own studying purposes. This is also verified by the various paint smudges and fingerprints found on a number of his photos. They are certain to have laid somewhere in Apol’s studio where they could be consulted. Apol never literally painted from his photos, but he undoubtedly used them as a a visual reference.

Tree branches covered in snow and a horse and buggy in foreshortened perspective, for instance, are elements found in both his photos as well as many of his paintings. There is no exact agreement to be found between any of his photos and paintings. Yet the photos reveal the same fundamental notions regarding design and the treatment of light that are found in his paintings. Also present is the same interest in scenes featuring (winter) forests and areas of natural beauty.

Louis Apol is one of the many impressionistic painters who became fascinated with photography. Tonality and the treatment of light in photography were subjects that he studied for his painting. It is unlikely that Apol ever showed his photographic work as an amateur photographer in public. No mention has ever been traced of his having taken part in any photography exhibitions. Apol’s photos stand more on the sideline of developments occuring in Dutch photography of his day, just as the photography of other painters such as George Breitner, Willem Witsen and Philippe Zilcken.


Secondary bibliography

Johan Gram, Onze Schilders in Pulchri Studio, Rotterdam (Elsevier) z.j. (ca. 1881), p. 118-119.

Anna C. Croiset van der Kop, A painter of winter – Louis Apol, in The Art Journal 1893, p. 353-356.

Lux 5 (oktober 1893), tentoonstellingsbijvoegsel.

Auteur onbekend, Binnenland-Arnhem, in Weekblad voor fotografie 1 (29 juni 1894) 23, p. 102; idem in Lux 5 (juli 1894) 10, p. 335.

H., Beeldende Kunsten. Het Panorama Nova Zembla, door Louis Apol, in Dagblad voor Zuid-Holland en ‘s-Gravenhage 30 juli 1896.

Aty Brunt, Een praatje over Louis Apol, in Op de Hoogte. Maandschrift voor de huiskamer 6 (1909), p. 727-734.

Auteur onbekend, Onze Schilders, in Maandblad voor Beeldende Kunsten 2 (1925), p. 288.

Auteur onbekend, Atelier Louis Apol, in NRC 1 mei 1937.

Ingeborg Th. Leijerzapf (red.), Fotografie in Nederland 1839-1920, Den Haag (Staatsuitgeverij) 1978, p.41, 73, 90.

C.A. Schilp, Louis Apol (1850-1936), in Kunst & Antiek Revue 6 (januari 1980) 1, p.7-12.

Pieter A. Scheen, Lexicon Nederlandse beeldende kunstenaars 1750-1880, Den Haag (Pieter A. Scheen BV) 1981, p. 13.


Pulchri Studio, Den Haag.

Arti et Amicitiae, Amsterdam.

Jurylid Tentoonstelling ter bevordering der Photographie, Utrecht, 1893.

Jurylid Internationale Fotografie tentoonstelling, Arnhem, 1894.


Den Haag, Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie.

Leiden, Prentenkabinet, bibliotheek en documentatiebestand.


Leiden, Prentenkabinet van de Rijksuniversiteit (foto’s).