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

Herman Bückmann

Mattie Boom


Herman Bückmann established himself as a photographer in The Hague in 1851, by taking over the clientele of the French daguerreotypist Hippolyte Caluyer. With such a step, Bückmann became part of the first generation of professional photographers in the Netherlands. In 1853, he wrote an instruction manual on photography. Around 1855, he produced a series of topographic photographs of The Hague, Delft, and the environs of Wassenaar that was exceptional for Dutch photography. In addition to this series, Bückmann produced carte-de-visite portraits in The Hague, Middelburg, and Gouda.




Johan Herman (Herman) Bückmann is born on 19 September in The Hague as the oldest son of Johann Herman Bückmann, storeowner, and Anna Margaretha Keck. Both parents were of German origin.


The Bückmanns’ second son, Johan Erich Hendrik, is born on 22 February in The Hague. Theodorus Elias, the third son, is born in 1824.


Bückmann’s mother dies on 8 October 1844 in The Hague. Five years later, on 16 January 1849, his father dies, leaving all of his possessions to his three sons. Herman, himself a storeowner, inherits the house at Maliestraat I 193 (today Maliestraat 20) in The Hague. In 1850, Herman’s brother Theodorus Bückmann settles in Deventer as a teacher. By this time, Herman is already married to Hendrika Elisabeth Hubenet. On 21 January 1849, the couple’s daughter, Johanna Gerardina, is born. On 16 January 1852, Johanna Hermina is born. The couple’s remaining children all die early in life.


In the Dagblad van ‘s-Gravenhage (‘Newspaper of The Hague’), the following advertisement appears on 9 July: ‘Daguerreotype portraits. The undersigned has the honour of informing his fellow citizens, that his establishment is open from morning 9 to 5 in the afternoon, regardless of the weather, J.H. Bückmann, Maliestraat wijk I No. 192.’ (House No. 192 is likely to be a printing error). In an advertisement of 27 August in the same newspaper, notice is given that Bückmann (who also refers to himself as ‘Buckmann’) is taking over the clientele of the French daguerreotypist Hippolyte Caluyer, who is returning to Paris.


Herman Bückmann publishes a booklet in April: Mystères dévoilés de la photographie sur plaques, papiers et verres (‘Mysteries Unveiled of Photography on Plates, Paper and Glass’). The book is mentioned in the Bibliographie voor Nederland (‘Bibliography of the Netherlands’), 1853, p. 46, No. 492 (large 30 pages large octave). (Note: Bückmann’s book is nowhere to be found in the Netherlands Central Catalogue or any of the other libraries. In literature on the history of photography, the book is mentioned for the first time in G.A. Evers’ bibliography of 1914. Evers’ source was a statement taken from Brinkman’s catalogue of all books published in the Netherlands between 1850 and 1882. It was from this source that Evers, as J. Geselschap states, recorded the erroneous name of J.H. ‘Buchmann’. Geselschap subsequently sought other references and found them in the aforementioned Bibliographie voor Nederland under the name J.H. Bückmann—not Buchmann!—listed under the month of April 1853. Research in the Dagblad van ‘s-Gravenhage failed to produce any advertisements, discussions, or notices. Enquiries at the Deventer City Archive, the city where the book was published, likewise led to nothing. Neither the Royal Library in Brussels, nor the Bibliothèque Nationale of Paris, mention the publication in their catalogues.)


Bückmann makes twenty-four photographs of streets, locations, and buildings in the vicinity of his home in The Hague, as well as in Wassenaar and Delft. Of these photographs, only the paper negatives have been preserved, with the exception of one positive. Eleven of the twenty-four negatives are signed and dated by Bückmann.


On 27 March, Bückmann moves his studio to Wagenstraat 129 in The Hague. By this time, he refers to himself as ‘photograaf van H.M. de Koningin’ (‘Photographer to Her Majesty the Queen’).


According to the Hague city address books, Bückmann’s brother Johan Erich Hendrik, formerly a grocer and watchmaker, establishes himself as a photographer at Smidswater 24 in The Hague.


On 25 October 1864, Herman Bückmann departs for Middelburg. His studio in The Hague is continued by two painters, J.G. van der Kruk (born 20 December 1836 in The Hague) and C.J. Behr (born 9 July 1812 in The Hague). The company operates under Bückmann’s name: ‘Photographisch Etablissement Firma [Photographic Establishment Company] J.H. Bückmann, Van der Kruk en Behr’. In Middelburg, Herman lives at Hoogstraat I 128 until 1876. He then moves to Molenwater N 76. He still uses the title: ‘Photographe de S.M. La Reine’. His production is probably still limited to carte-de-visite portraits. Johannes Arnoldus Daman, a person whose portrait was taken by Bückmann, later recalls in his memoires making a visit to a photographer, who, based on an examination of the vignette on the reverse of said photo, is certain to have been Bückmann. Daman recalls how Bückmann tried to get the group to look at the camera: ‘In 1876 (?), a photo was taken of the four of us, Cornelie, Annemie, Sarako and me. I had to really look closely at the camera, because a tiny ship was going to emerge from it.’


Bückmann leaves Middelburg, and on 24 September, moves to Kattensingel Q 137 in Gouda. It remains unclear whether he opened a photo studio immediately upon his arrival. In the city address books, one does find mention of the Bückmann sisters—Bückmann’s daughters, Hermina and Gerardina—who are listed as ‘seamstresses’. On 12 May 1880, Bückmann moves to Kattensingel Q 158 in Gouda. Only from 1881 to 1884 do the city address books list Herman Bückmann as a ‘photograaf’ (‘photographer’), in addition to his daughters’ sewing studio.


Johan Herman Bückmann dies on 28 August in Gouda. J. Geselschap, the city archivist of Gouda, mentions Bückmann in a 1961 article on the portrait photographers of Gouda. In a 1967 article in the Goudsche Courant, Geselschap characterises Bückmann as ‘basically a destitute figure, once a known photographer in The Hague, who ended up on the Kattensingel in 1878. He died six years later.’


The cityscape and the architectural photograph are rare in the early history of Dutch photography. Around 1855—fifteen years after photography was invented—Herman Bückmann produced several cityscapes and architectural photographs of The Hague and its environs. They are the earliest photos of the city. Together with the calotypes of Rotterdam made at the end of the 1840s by the English photographer J. Sherrington, Bückmann’s photos are the only surviving Dutch cityscapes made with the calotype technique from the period prior to the appearance of the photographic industries in the second half of the 1850s. This makes Bückmann’s position—one of the first topographic photographers in the Netherlands—quite unique.

In 1851, Bückmann set up a photo studio in his parental home on the Maliestraat, as confirmed by the two advertisements he placed in the Dagblad van ‘s-Gravenhage (‘Newspaper of The Hague’) in July and August of the same year. In these ads, Bückmann especially promotes his skill in portraiture produced with the daguerreotype technique. At this time, portraiture was still the most dependable source of income for a professional photographer. The advertisement of 27 August reveals that Bückmann had taken over the clientele of Hippolyte Caluyer, a photographer from Paris who was returning to the French capital for a brief period: ‘Portraits in Daguerreotype (non-fading). As a result of these arrangements between M. Caluyer et M. Bückmann, M. Caluyer has the honour of informing his numerous clientele, that they will find with M. Bückmann all the respect and attentiveness befitting the perseverance and trust they have always shown to M. Caluyer; M. Bückmann, the successor of M. Caluyer, assures everyone who gives him the privilege of their trust, that he will do everything in his power to keep them satisfied, that all amateurs will be very convinced, that M. Bückmann, who succeeds M. Caluyer, whose establishment has moved to the Maliestraat, No. 193, vis-à-vis ‘the Smidswater’. It is probable that Bückmann learned to photograph from Caluyer, and that he mastered the daguerreotype technique using Caluyer’s cameras, equipment, instruction manuals, and darkroom.

Bückmann also tried out other photographic techniques. This conclusion can be drawn from a book entitled ‘Mystères dévoilés de la photographie sur plaques, papiers et verres’ (‘Mysteries Unveiled of Photography on Cardboard, Paper and Glass’), which Bückmann wrote in 1853 after two years of practical experience working with photography. This publication—which we can only judge from its title—was in all likelihood a technical instruction manual. Treatises on the various photographic processes, which at this time were chiefly published outside the Netherlands, may perhaps have been the inspiration. In the Netherlands, there were virtually no publications of this sort. In 1845, a book by F.A.W. Retto was published under the title [English translation]: The calotype portrait art or instructions on how to not simply depict the portraits of persons but generally all kinds of objects, landscapes, buildings, etc., in a few minutes, even without the slightest knowledge of drawing and painting, extremely close to the natural appearance and very detailed at a minimum of cost. Other sources providing chiefly technical information were translated articles written by foreign authors that appeared in magazines such as Nederlandsch Magazijn (‘Netherlands Magazine’), Tijdschrift ter bevordering van nijverheid (‘Magazine for the Promotion of Industry’), het jaarboekje van wetenschappen en kunsten (‘The Yearbook of the Sciences and Arts’) or the Algemeene Konst- en Letterbode (‘General Art and Literature Messenger’). For the rest, one learned what one needed to know from foreign photographers travelling in The Netherlands. Because it was Caluyer—we assume—who taught the trade to Bückmann, an orientation in favour of French photographic processes is conceivable.

Bückmann produced his series of cityscapes close to his home, where there were enough interesting places to be seen. In 1854, he photographed the royal palace Huis ten Bosch. Other shots of the Ridderzaal (‘Hall of Knights’), the Kneuterdijk Palace, the Korte Voorhout, the Tournooiveld, and the Hofvijver date from 1855. In the same year, Bückmann also mad a photograph of his own ‘Photographisch Etablissement’ (‘Photographic Establishment’), a view from the upstairs window on the Smidswater and shots of the Maliestraat and the Houtweg. There are also shots of Villa Boschlust and De Paauw in Wassenaar. And during a daytrip to Delft, as well in 1855, he made photographs of various locations, including the main market square and the city hall. The prints reveal a carefully decided framing and a preference for the horizontal format. By using a camera with a kind of wide-angle lens (with a short focal length) in combination with a low vantage point, Bückmann was also able to achieve a spacious, vast view of the object he was photographing.

When considering this laudable photographic activity was undertaken in such a short period of time, one might presume that Bückmann was working on a project or commissioned basis. The choice of technique—the calotype, or salt print, was generally considered more ‘painterly’ than the small but sharply-defined daguerreotype—and the large format of photographs(30×20 cm and 20×15 cm), including signature and date, likewise indicate that Bückmann wished either to exhibit his work or publish it in a collective volume. He might also have been responding to the appeal of the Vereeniging voor Volksvlijt (‘Association of Industry’) for people to send in photos for an international Tentoonstelling van Photographie (‘Exhibition of Photography’) to be held in Amsterdam in April, May, and June 1855, and in The Hague in July of that same year. Or perhaps it was a visit to this exhibition, located close to the drawing academy on the Boschkant (now the Prinsessegracht) in The Hague, which had inspired him to produce a special series of cityscapes. At this exhibition, after all, photographs were on display taken by renowned photographers from abroad, such as Hermann Krone, Bisson frères, Charles Nègre, Edouard Baldus and Charles Marville, who all applied the same technique with the very same genres: landscape and topographic photography. Bückmann’s colleague in The Hague, H.C. Schuijt tot Castricum, even exhibited three ‘gezigten te ‘s Gravenhage’ (‘views of The Hague’), which were also salt prints.

On this point, however, the sources provide us with no information that would allow us to reconstruct the photographer’s motives. The minutes of the ‘Vereeniging ter beoefening van de geschiedenis der stad ‘s-Gravenhage’ (‘Association for the Cultivation of the History of The Hague’), which could potentially have confirmed the existence of a commission or project, make no mention whatsoever of any such endeavour, album, or even a photograph by Bückmann. The possibility that Bückmann took part in the exhibitions in Amsterdam or The Hague can neither be dismissed nor confirmed. The absence of Bückmann’s name in the catalogue of the Tentoonstelling van Photographie does not necessarily rule out his participation. People also exhibited work without having their names listed. At this time, no advertisements or notices in the Dagblad van ‘s-Gravenhage have been discovered, in which Bückmann’s cityscapes are mentioned or reviewed.

Not only the sources, but also Bückmann himself, leave us in the dark when it comes to much of his work. After his series of cityscapes—as far as can be determined—he never again worked with photography on a creative basis. It would seem as if the innovation and changes affecting his profession had quickly passed him by, without him being able to connect in some way. In these years, the daguerreotype and calotype had become obsolete thanks to Frederick Scott Archer’s wet collodion process, which made use of glass negatives and albumen paper for the positives. This new technique provided a major stimulus for the emergence of the photographic industries, such as stereo photography and carte-de-visite photography. Only in this last genre of photography has Bückmann left behind scarce traces of his work. For the rest, no other photos have survived from the thirty years he was making photographs. Large quantities have survived of the stereoscopic cityscapes produced by Jacobus van Koningsveld, Maria Hille, Pieter Oosterhuis and Adolphe Braun in ‘s-Gravenhage. With respect to this commonly practiced genre, which could potentially have become his specialty, Bückmann left nothing.

Only on a hypothetic basis can a comparison be made between Bückmann’s photos and the series of cityscapes that Alexandrine Tinne made several years later. In 1861, this noblewoman from The Hague took shots of the very same places that Bückmann had photographed: the Lange Voorhout, the Korte Voorhout, as well as the Houtweg, a shot in which Bückmann’s studio can be seen. Was she possibly a pupil of Bückmann’s, as proposed by Tineke de Ruiter in her article on Alexandrine Tinne? And had she seen him at work in his studio? Bückmann is most likely to have at least been familiar with the remarkable sight of this noblewoman with a camera, taking photographs practically in front of his door. It is not known whether they ever exchanged ideas or their knowledge of photography with one another. The only evidence to support such a conclusion is their preference for the same subject matter and stylistic similarities in vantage point and composition.

After a much promising start, Bückmann’s activity became surprisingly quiet. Extant sources will never provide any definitive conclusion as to why his photographic production diminished to but a few carte-de-visite portraits. J. Geselschap’s casual remark characterising Bückmann as a ‘basically destitute figure’ appears to be confirmed by the sudden rupture in his career.

Bückmann and his cityscapes would perhaps have been forgotten were it not for nine photographs donated to the Haags Gemeentearchief (‘Hague City Archive’) in 1897. This rather curious donation was made by C.M. Dewald (1868-1923), who regularly did photographic reproduction work for the Hague archive. Dewald may perhaps have received the photographs, or purchased them, from Bückmann’s daughter, Hermina, who moved to The Hague in December 1896. In any event, Dewald was quite clearly aware of the photo-historical value of this small pile of photographs, because along with his donation, he provided additional information concerning the technique he had applied to produce them. As the archivist recorded in the inventory book of prints and drawings: ‘For Nos. 6199 to 6207 the notification applies, that these photographs were produced from printing plates [‘clichés’] of J.W. (!) Bückmann 1855, for which good paper has been used, that has been sensitised with collodion, and after that made transparent with turpentine. The glass printing plates [clichés] were unknown.’ Of these nine photographs, only one has been preserved in the Hague City Archive. Twenty-five years later, in 1933, Dewald’s widow transferred the original negatives—twenty-four in total—to the archive. In 1938, Ms. Dietz-Bückmann donated a few additional portraits shot by Bückmann from the family’s archive, including a self-portrait. With her donation, the stature and the person of Bückmann himself were finally somewhat better defined.


Primary bibliography

Advertentie in Dagblad van ’s-Gravenhage 9 juli 1851, p. 4.

Advertentie in Dagblad van ’s-Gravenhage 27 augustus 1851, p.4.

J.H Bückmann, Mystères dévoilés de la photographie sur plagues, papiers et verres, Deventer 1853 (zie commentaar in de Biografie, onder 1853).

Advertentie in Dagblad van Zuidholland en ‘s-Gravenhage 27 maart 1861, p.4.


images in:

L.J. van der Haer, ‘s-Gravenhage gephotographeerd tusschen de jaren 1860-1870, Delft (Elmar N.V.) 1968, p. 34, 47, 63, 64, 79.

Jan Coppens (samenstelling), Een camera vol stilte. Nederland in het begin van de fotografie 1839-1875, Amsterdam (Meulenhoff) 1976, afb. 74, 75, 77, 207.

Kees Nieuwenhuijzen, Den Haag en omstreken in 19de-eeuwse foto’s, Amsterdam (Van Gennep) 1975, afb. 23, 26.

Secondary bibliography

J.E J . Geselschap, De fotografie te ‘s-Gravenhage (lijst van 19de-eeuwse fotografen in Den Haag), ongedateerde, getypte lijst in Gemeentearchief Den Haag.

G.A. Evers, Hoe de fotografie in Nederland kwam. I Lijst van Nederlandse geschriften over fotografie verschenen van 1839 tot en met 1864, in Lux 25 (1 augustus 1914) 15, p. 359.

J.E.J. Geselschap, De fotografie te ’s-Gravenhage 1839-1870, in Focus 40 (12 november 1955) 23, p. 519-520.

J. Geselschap, Goudse portretfotografen in de negentiende eeuw, in Gens Nostra 16 (april 1961) 4, p. 85-87.

J.E.J. Geselschap, Fotografen kwamen en gingen, in Goudsche Courant 10 juni 1967, p. 10.

Claude Magelhaes, Evolutie van de kreatieve fotografie. Deel I: 1820-1880, Den Haag/ Brussel (Manteau) 1968, p. 76, 91, afb. 9.

Claude Magelhaes, Nederlandse fotografie. De eerste honderd jaar, Utrecht/Antwerpen (Bruna & Zoon) 1969, p. XII, afb. 18-19.

H.M. Mensonides, Een nieuwe kunst in Den Haag; encyclopedisch overzicht van de eerste Haagse fotografen, in jaarboek Die Haghe 1977, p. 54-57, 59, 72, 103.

Ingeborg Th. Leijerzapf (red.), Fotografie in Nederland 1839-1920, Den Haag (Staatsuitgeverij) 1978, p.35, 92.

Bas Roodnat, Het Den Haag van Johan Bückmann, in NRC Handelsblad 11 december 1982.

Tineke de Ruiter, Alexandrine Tinne, in Geschiedenis van de Nederlandse fotografie, Alphen aan den Rijn (Samsom) 1984 e.v.

Jan Coppens, G.A. Evers, onze eerste fotohistoricus, in Photohistorisch Tijdschrift 9 (1986) 2, p. 8.


Delft, Gemeentearchief.

Den Haag, Gemeentearchief (o.a. archief van de Vereeniging van Geschiedenis van ‘s-Gravenhage).

Gouda, Gemeentearchief.

Leiden, Prentenkabinet, bibliotheek en documentatiebestand.

Middelburg, Gemeentearchief.


Den Haag, Gemeentearchief.

Den Haag, Rijksdienst Beeldende Kunst.

Leiden, Prentenkabinet van de Rijksuniversiteit.

Middelburg, Gemeentearchief.