PhotoLexicon, Volume 11, nr. 24 (November 1994) (en)

Albert Greiner

Anja Krabben


In 1861, Albert Greiner followed in the footsteps of several of his family members who had gone before him, leaving his native town of Neustadt, Germany, and departing for Amsterdam. One year later, Greiner took over the photography studio of his brother (or cousin) Ferdinand Greiner, at Nieuwendijk L 87, where he evolved into a renowned portrait photographer. Greiner’s specialty was theatrical photography, which in his day primarily took place in the studio.




Albert Greiner is born on 6 August in Neustadt (Grand Duchy of Baden), Germany, as the son of Fidel Greiner and Maria Haiz. Nothing is known of Greiner’s youth.


Mary Therese Antonetta Greiner is born in Neustadt on 30 November. She is the illegitimate daughter of Albert Greiner and a Dutch woman, Antonetta Geertruida Storm (born 27 December 1839 in Woensel).


On 11 February, Albert Greiner receives a travel and residency permit for the Netherlands. He is registered in Amsterdam at St. Nicolaasstraat H 430, at the home of Frederik Christiaan Schröder and Helena Storm, Antonetta’s aunt. On 23 October, Greiner’s travel and residency permit is extended. In November, Albert Greiner, Antonetta Geertruida Storm, and their child are officially registered as inhabitants of Amsterdam. They move to Nieuwendijk L 87 with Ferdinand, Haver, and Albert Greiner (brothers and/or cousins of Albert; the civil register makes no distinction), who had arrived previously in Amsterdam from Neustadt in December 1858. Ferdinand has been registered as a photographer at Nieuwendijk L 87 in the Amsterdam city address book since 1860. On 15 December, Albert and Antonetta’s second child is born in Amsterdam, named Albert Carl Greiner.


Albert Greiner’s travel and residency permit is revoked on 16 January. On 31 August, Albert Carl Greiner dies at the age of 8 months.


From this year forward, the Amsterdam address book cites ‘A. Greiner’ instead of ‘F. Greiner’ working as a photographer at Nieuwendijk L 87.


On 27 July 1863, Albert Greiner and Antonetta Storm have their third child, Maria Theresia Alberdina, born in Amsterdam. On 17 March 1865, a fourth child follows, Fidel Carl Albert Greiner.


On 10 April, Albert Greiner registers in Amsterdam as a foreign alien. On 16 August, Ferdinand and Haver Greiner return to Neustadt.


On 5 June, Albert Greiner and Antonetta Geertruida Storm wed in Amsterdam. On 28 June, their fifth child is born, Helena Greiner.


On 23 January, Antonetta gives birth to the couple’s sixth child, George Nicolaas Carl Greiner. Antonetta dies on 25 January, likely as a result of complications during labour. Two days later, the baby also dies.


On 15 February, Helena Cornelia Theresia Greiner is born in Breda. She is the illegitimate child of Albert Greiner and Helena Cornelia Storm (born on 29 December 1850 in The Hague). Helena is a younger sister of Greiner’s first wife, Antonetta.


Mary Therese Antonetta Greiner, Albert Greiner’s eldest child, dies on 26 June.


On 21 August, Greiner weds Helena Cornelia Storm. In September, Helena Cornelia Storm’s arrival in Amsterdam is recorded in the city’s arrivals register; her previous place of residence is not listed. On 5 November, the couple’s daughter arrives, who is cited as originating from Tiel.


During a meeting on 30 December, Greiner is made editor of the Tijdschrift voor Photograpie (‘Magazine of Photography’). The address on the Nieuwendijk is renumbered from ‘L 87′ to ’89’.


Greiner is a participant at the Internationale Tentoonstelling van Photographie (‘International Exhibition of Photography’), held at the artist society ‘Arti et Amicitiae’ (‘Arts and Friends’) in Amsterdam. Greiner’s entry consists of four portraits in carbon print.

Greiner wins a bronze medal in the category ‘the best photographs in carbon print’. On 11 December, Greiner obtains the Dutch nationality.


At the Wereldtentoonstelling (‘World Fair’) in Paris, Greiner is awarded an honourable mention. In Arnhem, Greiner receives a silver medal during the Tentoonstelling van Nederland en Kolonieën (‘Exhibition of the Netherlands and its Colonies’). On 2 August, Greiner is granted the title of ‘hoffotograaf’ (‘court photographer’) by the Dutch Royal House.


Greiner wins a second silver medal during the Internationale Koloniale en Uitvoerhandel Tentoonstelling (‘International Colonial and Export Trade Exhibition’) in Amsterdam.


In August, Greiner, his wife, and two of his children (Fidel Carl Albert and Helena Cornelia Theresa) move to Damrak 24, where he starts up a second photography studio.

In the next four years, the facade on the Nieuwendijk is renovated based on a design by the architect Gerrit van Arkel.


On 5 April, Albert Greiner, his wife, and the two children mentioned above, move to the municipality of ‘Nieuweramstel’ on the outskirts of Amsterdam. In July, the photographer Hendricus Andries du Bois moves to Damrak 24.


On 24 February, the family moves back to Amsterdam, residing at Bloemgracht 66. On 28 March, Albert Greiner dies. Greiner’s son, Fidel Carl Albert Greiner, moves from Bloemgracht 66 to Nieuwendijk 89 in May. He continues the photography business under his father’s name.

In August, H.A. du Bois leaves Damrak 24.


On 23 January, Jacob Landsman (originating from The Hague) registers as a photographer at Damrak 24. On 27 October, he returns to The Hague. In May, Albert Greiner’s widow moves from Bloemgracht 66 to Nieuwendijk 83.


On 9 May, Fidel Carl Albert Greiner weds Lucia Camilla Elise Zimmermann, who is 22 years of age and born in Cologne, Germany.


In this year, the name ‘Greiner’ disappears from the Amsterdam city address book as a photographer.


In the middle of the 19th century, four members of the Greiner family followed each other, one shortly after the other, leaving Neustadt (Germany) to move to Amsterdam. Ferdinand and Albert Greiner (not to be confused with the photographer discussed here, most likely a cousin) arrived in December 1858. They registered with the city as merchants, with the address Nieuwendijk L 87 as their place of residence. In June 1859, Haver Greiner (no stated profession) arrived in Amsterdam, moving in with the two other Greiners. The last to arrive, in November 1861, was Albert Greiner, together with his fiancé, Antonetta Geertruida Storm, and their two-year-old daughter. They too moved into the house on the Nieuwendijk. Due to a lack of data at the city register of Neustadt, it remains unclear whether the four Greiners were brothers or cousins. How Antonetta Storm, a Dutch woman, had initially come into contact with Albert Greiner is also not known.

F. Greiner is listed in the Amsterdam city address book as a photographer starting in 1860, at the address Nieuwendijk L 87. Ferdinand’s time working in the field photography was of short duration (no photo exists known to have been taken by him), as Albert took over the business in about 1862. In 1866, Ferdinand returned to Neustadt.

Nothing is known regarding the Greiners’ youth in Germany. One can only guess as to whether Ferdinand and Albert had worked for a photographer in Germany or been trained there prior to their arrival in the Netherlands. Such a scenario is likely, however, as Albert’s photos displayed technical craftsmanship from the very start.

Albert Greiner was primarily a portrait photographer. The number of surviving carte-de-visite portraits is substantial. Undoubtedly, he was one of the better photographers in this genre. Greiner worked with artificial backdrops (painted canvases) and frequently succeeded in incorporating these in his photos in a way that seemed natural. The Tijdschrift voor Photographie (‘Magazine of Photography’) writes in 1884: ‘In the eye of the owner, in actuality, the family album is frequently not much more than a sample card, and the photographer who was fortunate to have furnished the best ‘sample’ for the collection is likely to draw the best clientele.’ Greiner did professional work and had an extensive circle of clients, including numerous actors and actresses. Occasionally, his studio was honoured with the visit of a client destined for immortality. In 1871, for instance, Greiner portrayed the French painter Claude Monet and his wife, Camille.

The field of professional portrait photography was financially quite fortuitous for Greiner. In the years 1887 to 1891, he commissioned the architect Gerrit van Arkel to design an entirely new facade for the building at Nieuwendijk 89. Greiner moved with his family to Damrak 24, where he started up a second photographic studio. Added to the exterior of this building—unaltered even to the present day—was a sculpted frieze designed by ‘Van den Bossche en Crevels’. On the left and right are the portraits of Daguerre and Nièpce, the founding fathers of photography. Within the frieze itself, several putti are busy preparing the photographic baths, paging through a photo album, and playing with photographic attributes. In the middle of the frieze stands the photographer himself, holding his camera.

In the article ‘De stoel in het 19de-eeuwse fotoatelier’ (‘The Chair in the 19th-Century Photography Studio’), appearing in the Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek of 1980, one finds one more indication of just how wealthy Greiner’s studio had been at one time. A study of his carte-de-visite portraits reveals that Greiner used no less than sixty-five different chairs in his studio over the years. These pieces of furniture allowed him to have his clients pose in various positions: sitting in, standing behind, next to, or in front of the chair.

From 1875 to 1890, Albert Greiner was an important photographer of the Dutch theatrical world. Photographic technique was not yet developed to the degree that one could take photos during the actual theatre performance. Actors and actresses were obliged to visit the photographer’s studio, to put on their costumes there, and subsequently pose in front of a suitable background decor. Greiner’s studio was favourably located, not far from the theatres on the Nes.

The ‘acting’ done in the studio often appears quite forced in these photos. On occasion, however, the actor was so talented that dramatic and ‘realistic’ photos could be achieved, such as in the case of the famous Dutch actor Louis Bouwmeester. In addition to Bouwmeester, there were other major actors and actress of this era portrayed at least once in Greiner’s photos, including Henri Crispijn, Julia Cuypers, Alex Faassen, E. Bamberg, Theo Mann-Bouwmeester, Max Faasen, Adriaan van der Horst, and Esther de Boervan Rijk. Other photographers in Amsterdam who were also specialised in theatrical photography at this time were Armand Frères (‘Photographie Francaise’, ‘French Photography’), A.H. van Dijk, Koene & Büttinghausen, M.H. Laddé, C.J.L. Vermeulen, and Wegner & Mottu.

After 1900, i.e. by the time Fidel Carl Albert Greiner had taken over the business, the competition had become stiffer. Hendrik Coenraad de Graaff and Max Cosman, in particular, both had studios at the Gebouw Kosmos (‘Kosmos Building’) on the Koningsplein in Amsterdam, close to the Stadsschouwburg (Amsterdam’s civic theatre). Albert Greiner shot mainly portraits of individual actors, which were romantic and stately; Fidel photographed numerous group scenes. Some of these were taken in the theatre—not during a performance, as this was still technically infeasible—but during a rehearsal, with everything put on hold for the photographer’s benefit. Fidel Carl Albert Greiner photographed, for example, Herman Heijermans’ stage play Op hoop van zegen (‘Trusting our Fate in the Hands of God’) in 1901.

Fidel Greiner became the regular photographer of the Nederlandsche Tooneelvereeniging (‘Netherlands Theatrical Association’). Eventually, however, he was unable to keep up with the competition. After 1905, most of the studio’s theatrical clients had gone elsewhere, i.e. to the next generation of photographers, who had completely different ideas about theatrical photography, including Frits Geveke, and from 1913, Jacob Merkelbach.

In addition to portrait photos, a number of Albert Greiner’s cityscapes of Amsterdam have been preserved, all in large-format prints. Greiner’s aimed his camera chiefly at the city and its architecture versus its inhabitants. People are either altogether absent or simply random passers-by. His cityscapes were primarily produced for special royal, festive events taking place in the city and published in small editions in the form of portfolios.

The title ‘court photographer’ bestowed status and prestige on a photographer, and in all likelihood, a greater number of clientele. Greiner desired this title and, in 1878, filed his first request. He sent a letter to King William III, enclosing several photos of a ship called the ‘Willem Barents’, taken on the day of its departure for a trip to the North Pole. These photos are no longer preserved at the Koninklijk Huisarchief (‘Royal House Archive’) and have not been found in any other collection. The response to Greiner’s request was negative. A second attempt was subsequently made, however, in 1879. This time he submitted fourteen photos in a red-leather portfolio with the title Amsterdam in feestgewaad (‘Amsterdam in Festive Robes’). The photos had been shot prior to and during the festivities in honour of King William III and Queen Emma’s entry into Amsterdam. The photos show both the official decorations put up by the city, but also those sponsored by private citizens at various locations dispersed around the centre of Amsterdam. In the letter accompanying the portfolio, Greiner wrote that the festival committee had authorised him as a photographer. He also expressed his desire to possibly ‘receive a Royal proof of favour, then it would be this, to be able to call myself Photographer of Their Majesties the King and Queen of the Netherlands.’

This portfolio is still complete and in the possession of the Royal House. Muller’s De Nederlandsche geschiedenis in platen (‘The History of the Netherlands in Pictures’), Volume 4, of 1882, states that only twenty-five copies were printed of this series, and that they were all sent to the king as well as ‘authorities and council members’ of the city of Amsterdam. According to Muller, the photos were never brought out on the market, with the negatives destroyed.

On 10 July 1879, the mayor of Amsterdam wrote a letter of recommendation on behalf of Greiner: ‘A. Greiner (…) owns an extremely sound business as a photographer and is known as someone who understands his profession thoroughly.’ On 2 August of the same year, Greiner received the title of ‘hoffotograaf’ (‘court photographer’). From this point forward, the royal coat of arms was found on the reverse of all of his photos, as well as every published advertisement.

In 1887, Greiner once again photographed the festivities surrounding a royal event: the April Festivities in honour of the 70th birthday of King William III. Together with poems written by H.Th. Boelen, the photos were published by J.M. Schalekamp of Amsterdam. No information is available regarding the size of the edition and whether the photos were ever sold to the general public.

Many nineteenth-century photographers, including Greiner, were specialised in the ‘unchanging carbon print’, as this technique was typically recommended. In Greiner’s case, the term ‘unchanging’ was anything but an empty promise. Even to this day, some of his photos look as if they were produced yesterday, especially several of his theatrical photos printed in large format. Greiner was interested in photographic technique. In an article written for the Tijdschrift voor Photographie in 1876, he provides a formula for preparing a plate with the carbon transfer printing process. The article had been published earlier in the year in an English magazine, The Photographic News.

In a piece written for The Photographic News in 1882, Greiner described a drying cabinet he had designed himself, to be used for drying glass plates. This article was not published in the Tijdschrift voor Photographie, though the magazine devoted some attention to his invention in an article by H.L.J. Haakman in 1885.

The Tijdschrift voor Photographie was a publication of the APhV (Amsterdamsche Photographen-Vereeniging, ‘Amsterdam Photographers Association’), of which Greiner was a member. In December 1875, he became the magazine’s editor. In spite of this function in the association, Greiner’s name is rarely mentioned in the minutes of board meetings and appears only twice in connection with articles published in the magazine.

Albert Greiner died in 1890. His son, Fidel Carl Albert, who was likely trained in photography by his father, took over the booming photography studio. Fidel not only worked under the same name, but even worked in the very same areas of photography (portraiture and an occasional cityscape) as his father. For photos without any kind of dating, a determination of which of the two men shot the photo is virtually impossible. Fidel Greiner as well had clear ambitions himself in the field of photography, as affirmed by the fact that, in 1906, he became a member of the NFK (Nederlandsche Fotografen Kunstkring, ‘Netherlands Photographers Art Society’), an association aiming to improve the level of professional photography, among other goals. The quality of the son’s work is in no way inferior to that of his father.

Greiner’s studio remained in operation until 1915. Albert Greiner is an example of a hard-working and artisanal photographer, whose tremendous success was based on the serious way in which he approached his profession. Without doubt, he was one of the better nineteenth-century portrait photographers in the Netherlands. His portraits display, above all, a high technical quality. Greiner’s cityscapes are scarcely less interesting than those of Pieter Oosterhuis. That said, he apparently lacked the time, interest, or ambition to evolve into an architectural photographer of importance. With respect to Fidel Carl Greiner’s significance, little more can be said than that he was a technically skilled professional. He possessed no specific personal ideas concerning photography.


Primary bibliography

Het vervaardigen van negatieven en afdrukken op papier, in Tijdschrift voor Photographie 1 (juli 1873) 12, p. 184-186.

Note on Carbon printing, in The Photographic News 20 (21 januari 1876) 907, p. 38 (idem: Collodium om pigment photographie te emailleeren, in Tijdschrift voor Photographie 4 (maart 1876) 8, p. 128).

A simple drying-box for gelatine plates, in The Photographic News 26 (21 april 1882)1233, p. 215.

(Advertenties), in Adresboek Amsterdam 1886-1893.

Reclamestrooibiljet juni 1893. (Advertenties), in De Kijker 1899-1900/01.


images in:

Amsterdam in feestgewaad 21-18 april 1879 (Portfolio van 14 foto’s, uitgegeven ter gelegenheid van het bezoek van koning Willem III en koningin Emma aan Amsterdam, 1879).

Herinnering Aprilfeesten Amsterdam (Portfolio met gedichten van H.Th. Boelen, een tekening van J. van Essen en foto’s van A. Greiner, uitgegeven namens het Genootschap Liefdadigheid naar Vermogen, ter gelegenheid van de zeventigste verjaardag van koning Willem III), Amsterdam (J.M. Schalenkamp) 1887.

A. van Raalte, Louis Bouwmeester. Zijn veertigjarige toneelloopbaan 1861-1901, Amsterdam 1901, p. 14, 16-17, 19-20, 24, 26-31,33-35,40-41,43.

Maandelijksch Tijdschrift voor Tooneel 1 (maart 1904) 3, na p. 91, na p. 107.

Buiten. Geïllustreerd weekblad aan het buitenleven gewijd 2 (20 juni 1908) 25, p. 298-299.

Aug. Grégoire, Honder jaar fotografie, Bloemendaal (N.V. Uitgeversmaatschappij “Focus”) 1948.

Harry G.M. Prick, De briefwisseling tussen Lodewijk van Deyssel en Arnold Ising Jr., deel 1, Den Haag (Nederlands Letterkundig Museum) 1965, p. 121, 205 (serie: Achter het boek 4 (1965) 1/3)

Bzzlletin (1979) 69, p. 4, 6.

Catalogus tent. Foto ’84, Amsterdam (Stichting Amsterdam Foto) 1984, p. 101.

Catalogus tent. Monet in Holland, Zwolle/Amsterdam (Waanders/ Rijksmuseum Vincent van Gogh) 1986, p. 12,45.

Vrij Nederland kleurenbijlage (18 oktober 1986) 42, p. 3.

Ingeborg Th. Leijerzapf (red.), Het Fotografisch Museum van Auguste Grégoire. Een vroege Nederlandse fotocollectie, Den Haag (Staatsuitgeverij) 1989, p. 87, 93.

Mattie Boom, 150 Jaar fotografie. Een keuze uit de collectie van de Rijksdienst Beeldende Kunst, Den Haag (SDU Uitgeverij) 1989, p. 99 (serie: RBK-reeks nr. 2).


Tijdschrift voor Photographie, vanaf 1875.

Secondary bibliography

Auteur onbekend, Kort verslag van de vergadering der Amsterd. Photographen-Vereeniging, in Tijdschrift voor Photographie 4 (januari 1976) 6, p. 6-7.

Catalogus Internationale Tentoonstelling van Photographie, Amsterdam (Arti et Amicitiae) 1877, p.6.

Amsterdamsche Courant 2 1 oktober 1878, p. 2020.

F. Muller, De Nederlandsche geschiedenis in platen, deel 4, Amsterdam (Frederik Muller en Co.) 1882, p. 380, nr. 7521.

H.L.J. Haakman, Greiner’s droogkast, in Tijdschrift voor Photographie 13 (maart 1885) 3, p. 27-29.

Auteur onbekend, Beeldhouwkunst, in De Opmerker. Weekblad voor beeldende kunst en technische wetenschap 2 2 ( 3 september 1887) 36, p. 284.

Auteur onbekend, Amsterdam, in De Opmerker. Weekblad voor beeldende kunst en technische wetenschap 22 (17 september 1887) 38, p. 302.

De Architect 2 (1891) 1/2, pl. 44.

Ingeborg Th. Leijerzapf (red.), Fotografie in Nederland 1839-1920, Den Haag (Staatsuitgeverij) 1978, p. 10, 13, 38, 40, 60, 95 (met foto’s).

I.Th. Leijerzapf, De stoel in het 19deeeuwse foto-atelier, in Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 1980, (1981) 31, p. 525-532.

Joost Groeneboer, In het licht van de fotograaf, Amsterdam 1991, p. 45-48, 52-54, 58, 60-61, 66, 76, 78, 113, 117 (serie: Theater Cahiers 2).


Amsterdamsche Photographen-Vereeniging.


1877 Bronzen medaille, Internationale Tentoonstelling van Photographie, Amsterdam.

1878 Eervolle vermelding, Wereldtentoonstelling, Parijs.

1879 Zilveren medaille, Tentoonstelling van Nederland en Koloniën, Arnhem.

1879 Hoffotograaf.

1883 Zilveren medaille, Internationale Koloniale en Uitvoerhandel Tentoonstelling, Amsterdam.


1877 (g) Amsterdam, Arti et Amicitiae, Internationale Tentoonstelling van Photographie (Amsterdamsche Photographen-Vereeniging).

1878 (g) Parijs, Wereldtentoonstelling.

1879 (g) Arnhem, Tentoonstelling van Nederland en Koloniën.

1883 (g) Amsterdam, Internationale Koloniale en Uitvoerhandel Tentoonstelling.

1978 (g) Leiden, Stedelijk Museum De Lakenhal, Belicht Verleden. Fotografie in Nederland 1839-1920 (rondreizende tentoonstelling).

1984 (g) Amsterdam, Nieuwe Kerk, 1860-1960 Honderd jaar Amsterdams straatleven (Foto ’84).


Amstelveen, Adriaan Elligens (ongepubliceerde doctoraalscriptie kunstgeschiedenis: Frits Geveke, de Nederlandsche Fotografen Patroons Vereeniging en de portretfotografie in Nederland tussen beide wereldoorlogen, Rijksuniversiteit Leiden, januari 1988).

Amsterdam, Gemeentearchief.

Amsterdam, Joost Groeneboer (ongepubliceerde doctoraalscriptie theaterwetenschap: Theaterfotografie in Nederland, 1855-1942, Universiteit van Amsterdam, 1990).

Amsterdam, M. Harlaar (documentatie en mondelinge informatie).

Amsterdam, Theater Instituut Nederland, bibliotheek en documentatiebestand.

Den Haag, Koninklijk Huisarchief.

Leiden, Prentenkabinet, bibliotheek en documentatiebestand.

Neustadt, Stadtarchiv.


Amsterdam, Gemeentearchief.

Amsterdam, Rijksprentenkabinet.

Amsterdam, Theater Instituut Nederland.

Den Haag, Koninklijk Huisarchief.

Leiden, Prentenkabinet van de Rijksuniversiteit Leiden.