PhotoLexicon, Volume 17, nr. 33 (Augustus 2000) (en)

Luite Klaver

Johan Degewij

Ingeborg Th. Leijerzapf


Luite Klaver was a versatile man. Besides being a painter, graphic artist, plant cultivator and a photographer, he was also an inventor. In the 1920s and ’30s, he experimented with colour photography and received patents on his inventions related to removable emulsions. Although his discoveries were very promising and respected by scientists and technicians in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Great Britain, his efforts were nullified by the three-layer emulsions emerging after the war, which were much easier to use.




Luite Klaver was born on 21 September in Hattem as the son of Hendricus Jacobus Klaver and Everlina Lubberta Barendsen. In Hattem, he is called ‘Lute’. His father is a carpenter, grocer and cigar dealer. There are eleven children born into the family. Three boys—each named ‘Luite’—had died before Luite was born.


After attending primary school, Luite becomes a carpenter’s apprentice to his father. Luite’s Uncle Willem, a baker and amateur painter, encourages him to draw and paint. His first earnings are derived from members of his own family: he sometimes receives a Dfl. 2.50 coin for a drawing made at their request. Luite next works as an errand boy for the Dutch railways for a period of time. He later becomes a clerk with the postal service in Hattem. He eventually climbs his way up to being the stand-in for his director and is subsequently contracted out to do work in the Betuwe, Rhenen, and Winterswijk.


Klaver receives painting lessons from Jan Voerman Sr., who had settled in Hattem in around 1887. Klaver decides to become a painter and quits his job at the postal service. His workshop is in a small garden house located on the town wall of Hattem.


According to his daughters, Klaver enrols as a student at the RABK (Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten, ‘National Academy of Fine Arts’) in Amsterdam. His name, however, is not listed in the academy’s archives.


Klaver takes classes at the Rijksnormaalschool (‘National Normal School’, a teacher’s school) in Amsterdam. He devotes his time to photography and earns a modest income by making art reproductions on commission for the company Van Meurs en Co. in Amsterdam.


Klaver meets Gerarda Jacoba (Da) Doyer, born in Deventer on 4 May 1864. Doyer has obtained her certificate in Handtekenen-L.O. (‘Hand-Drawing Teacher’s Education’) and continues her studies at the Rijksnormaal school. In addition, she works in the studio of the painter Gerrit Willem Dijsselhof.


Klaver and Doyer wed and subsequently settle together in Hattem. Doyer, who is from a well-to-do family, takes over the finances from this point onward.


Klaver’s daughter, Clare Helene—later to become the author Clare Lennart (pseudonym)—is born in Hattem.


Klaver works as a lithographer and illustrator for six books on the topic of plants, written respectively by K. Siderius (1899–1905, 1904) and J. Ritzema Bos (1905).


The Klaver family moves to Oldebroek and begins living in the manor ‘De Ekelenberg’. The funds to purchase the manor are provided by Da Klaver-Dover. Klaver starts using the farmhouse that belongs to the manor and, in addition, sets up a nursery for plants, flowers, fruit and vegetables. He makes his living not only by selling the produce he grows, but also by selling his paintings, as well as photos of nature and photographic artwork reproductions.


Klaver’s second daughter, Eveline Hendrika, is born in Oldebroek.


Klaver’s son, Dirk Anton (Dick), is born in Oldebroek.


Klaver’s company on the De Ekelenburg estate goes bankrupt. The family moves to a small house in Epe.


Klaver’s wife, Da, is bedridden in August.


The family moves to a larger house in Tongeren, a village in the municipality of Epe.


On 6 September, Da Klaver moves to a guesthouse in the vicinity of Deventer in order to receive better medical care. She dies on 6 December, following a long-term illness.


Luite Klaver moves to an upstairs apartment at the ‘Daendelshuis’ in Hattem.


Klaver weds Egberta Hendrika Geertruida (Bertha) Barendsen, his wife’s cousin from ‘s-Heerenbroek (born in Kampen on 19 October 1875).


Klaver and his wife move to the manor ”t Oude Spyker’ on the Molecaten estate in Hattem.

Early 1920s

Klaver begins experimenting with (colour) photography.


Starting in this year, Klaver obtains patents for his inventions related to removable emulsions.


Klaver files patent applications for the concept of his dichroic (division into two colours) colour filters.


In 1936, Klaver and his wife move to Noordwijkerhout and later to Soestduinen. During the war, Klaver is employed as a member of the managing board at the Dalco photographic factories.


Klaver’s second wife, Bertha, dies in early January.


Several months after May 1945, Klaver is living with his daughter Clare in Utrecht. He then moves to Haarlem, and ultimately Delden, where he lives with his son Dick.


Klaver is living with his second daughter, Eveline, in Utrecht. He achieves notoriety as a painter.


On 28 November, Luite Klaver dies in Utrecht. He is buried at Driebergen.


Klaver’s daughters donate their father’s photographic legacy to the Leiden University Print Room by his daughters.


Luite Klaver was said to be a colourful figure, an artist of the romantic sort: large hat, slack tie, and an aromatic cigar, and an interesting person. In the eyes of his coolly observant daughter Clare, however, he was more than anything an anti-social fantasist. Klaver’s modest nature, reserve, and dislike of being in the spotlight never brought him any substantial notoriety. His desire to withdraw from others began on his estate in Oldebroek, called Ekelenburg, where he started up a plant nursery in order to continue his painting on a self-sufficient basis. Klaver’s activities as a painter, photographer, and inventor were primarily motivated by his fascination for representing nature with all of its detail in form and colour. Time and again, however, financial concerns left him with no other option but to somehow make a living from this work. Klaver considered painting to be the main goal of his life, especially after the war when his respected inventions turned out to be fruitless. His motivation as a painter is apparent in an interview conducted by Hans Roest in Het Nieuwe Dagblad of 13 August 1955: ‘”I was always looking precisely for the wondrous in everything that exists,” says the elderly artist when we meet him at his daughter’s, the renowned author (Clare Lennart). “People consider everything around them as something very ordinary. They fail to see the wonder. I have always tried to shed a little light on this for them. I was not always successful, but whether I wanted it or not—I had to persevere.”‘ Indeed, many of Klaver’s plans failed. Nevertheless, no setback could rob him of his love for nature.

The majority of Klaver’s paintings are in the possession of his six grandchildren. Two paintings are preserved at the Voerman Museum in Hattem.

Klaver was one of the first people in the Netherlands to grow gerberas. He had even started a tomato-growing nursery, in the hope that this fruit would someday be seen as food for the general populace. This project ended in a fiasco, as he cherished an expectation of something for which the time was not yet ripe.

Between 1899 and 1905, Klaver illustrated six books on the topic of plants, all put out by the publisher S.L. van Looy in Amsterdam. They included pen drawings and colour lithographs. For the first book, Klaver collaborated with the illustrator/lithographer Theodoor Willem Nieuwenhuis; for the five remaining volumes he worked on his own.

While involved with these other activities, Klaver took photographs. He also experimented with cameras and techniques. His photographic legacy, preserved in the collection of the Leiden University Print Room, includes four self-made cameras and forty-nine small photos, thirty-nine medium-sized photos, and twelve large photos. Most are printed on developing paper, but there are also bromoil prints, gum prints and colour prints. The subjects Klaver photographed are: trees, flowers, chickens, a farmer with a bull, the heather, country roads, and clouds above a village. He is likely to have used these photos as models for his paintings. There are evident similarities. One obvious example is a painting of a Scots pine tree (in the possession of his granddaughter, Ineke Klaver), for which a photo was used as his model.

Klaver’s photographic activity is likely to have arisen based on a desire to take shots for his own use. Once he became involved in photography, he observed various shortcomings in the colour material. He subsequently spent years searching for better solutions to issues related to the ‘gekleurde beeld’ (‘coloured image’). With this term, Klaver expressed his dissatisfaction with the results of the colour techniques that were current at the time.

In the cellar of ”t Oude Spijker’ on the estate of Molecaten in Hattem, Klaver carried out extensive experiments that resulted in a number of inventions. These became well-known through his patents. With these patents, Klaver hoped to protect his ideas and to assure himself of a steady income. The only literature devoted to Klaver’s inventions was reported by Adriaan Boer in two issues of Focus in 1929. Boer stated that he had spoken to Klaver at length about the possibilities of his experiments. Klaver had as well informed him that his patent applications had finally been approved. The extensive correspondence preserved in the Print Room of Leiden University concerning Klaver’s patent applications indicates that the entire process was initiated in 1924. He was granted five patents with regards to removable emulsions: a Dutch (no. 19135), a British (no. 269912), a Belgian (no. 341760), a German (no. 445078), and a French patent (no. 632972).

The inventions that Klaver discussed with Boer were related to the removability of emulsions from their original support (typically paper or glass). According to Boer, Klaver’s chief contribution was the fact that he used unhardened gelatin, in contrast to the standard methods of removable papers, whereby the emulsion was treated with a hardening agent. With this method, an unhardened layer of gelatin or some other kind of binding agent was applied between the hardened layer of emulsion and the support. This had to be rinsed with water in order to remove the emulsion from the support. Klaver first prepared his developing paper with a thin layer of casein and applied the light-sensitive emulsion layer over it. The exposed emulsion could then easily be removed when it was dry and transferred to a new underlayer. With Klaver’s method, the technique of removable emulsions was given a wider range of applications, including its use for reproduction techniques, for the transferral of artistic photos on laid paper, and for colour photography. For Klaver, it was this last use that was particularly important: the combining of the three primary colours for a colour print on glass or paper had now become much easier.

On 15 December 1932, Klaver filed a thorough accounting of all of his inventions with a notary’s office in Noordwijk, which had been drawn up on 10 December 1932. In this report, he described not only his new method for the manufacture of a removable emulsion layer, but also an invention that concerned the dichroic colour filters with an enhanced reflective capacity. This report was recorded in Klaver’s own handwriting: ‘Undersigned declares to have found a working procedure for the manufacture of: 1. Light-sensitive photographic material suitable for shots and for positive prints with dry removable, clear transparent image support. In contrast to other comparable materials, with this material one has sought to produce the temporary underlayer and the light-sensitive film from a composition that is as similar as possible, so that the capacity of absorption for both is the same. This enables the entire surface to remain flat in the dry as well as the wet state, due to the fact that the tension is equal on the front side and the reverse. This is achievable by using a thin, strongly absorbing paper made from a fine, regular structure as a temporary support, which is soaked in a suitable colloid. The removability of the supporting film and the high gloss necessary for the temporary support are obtained by rewetting the paper that was treated and dried as cited above, and subsequently powdering or spraying is with a talcum or a solution of ox gall and water or with another preparation suited to this purpose. Immediately after, i.e. when it is still moist, the paper can now be given a high gloss by glazing or some other method. On the underlayer treated in this manner, after it has dried, according to the accepted procedure a non-light-sensitive gelatin layer is first applied [according to Jan van Dijk, photographer and expert in the area of historic processes, Klaver probably means the casein layer], and thereafter, the light-sensitive emulsion layer.’

The second point in Klaver’s report concerns the invention of a colour filter system: ‘2. Colour filters for which the reflecting capacity has been increased by applying an extremely thin layer of specific colouring agents in certain solvents. At the same time, one is able to ensure that the reflected light has the complementary colour of the light that passes through. In contrast to ordinary transparent silvering, the filters’ capacity to allow light is not influenced negatively by this method.’

Adriaan Boer was referring to the application of this colour filter system when he wrote in his account in Focus that Klaver was also preoccupied with the building of an ‘extraordinarily ingenious camera for three-colour photography, while at the same time he has a design for a camera for cinematography in natural colours.’

In his cameras for colour photography, Klaver introduced his invention for dichroic colour filters. Cameras for three-colour photography are set up in such a manner that the image to be photographed is shot in a single exposure via colour filters for three so-called partial negatives. Klaver’s filters are placed in the middle of the camera in a criss-cross arrangement. The method employed is differs, for instance, from that of the Jospé camera, in which the filters are mounted to the exterior of the camera on three sides: the three negatives are positioned in front of the filters, with the rays of light passing through the filters onto the negatives via built-in mirrors.

Klaver’s drawing gives an idea of the manner in which the light rays travel in his cameras, starting from the objective L, via the three-colour filter—comprised of two dichroic filters that criss-cross each other—to the film surfaces 1, 2 and 3. On this subject, Klaver wrote enthusiastically: ‘I then found the possibility to produce my reflecting filters in such a manner that they reflected better, without reducing the permeability of the light that enters.’ He also wrote: ‘The building of the cameras, however, was still too complicated and too costly for me to make it more generally practicable. The rectangular filters that intersected each other were especially a persistent annoyance.’

At a certain point, Klaver came into contact with a precision mechanic L. Blok of Lisse. Klaver commissioned Blok to make the prototypes for his cameras. Initially, the collaboration between the two men was equitable. In October 1935, Blok prepared a detailed proposal for a joint venture between the following parties: Klaver, as the inventor; Blok, as the prototype builder; the company Gevaert, in Antwerp, to produce the removable emulsion paper; and the company Kipp, in Delft, to build the test cameras for photography and cinematography. In addition, Blok cited the names of Prof. Ornstein, Gen. Maj. van Albada and Dr. A.C.S. van Heel, all who would provide advice and laboratory equipment. Blok also stated that Klaver would earn Dfl. 250 per month. He ends the proposition with: ‘In total, you can count on an amount of Dfl. 20,000 as yet being required for the development. Not to be paid out immediately, of course, and probably not necessary in its entirety.’ The correspondence between Klaver and Blok shows that, as the 1930s progressed, the critical attitude of the two men regarding the practical realisation of their project steadily diminished. Blok leads Klaver to believe that the projects are feasible and manipulates him somewhat in order to continue. Notwithstanding, Klaver’s enthusiasm lessens. He is faced with ever-increasing financial problems, in part because he has borrowed substantial funds for the project based on Blok’s advice.

Several examples preserved in the Leiden University Print Room serve to illustrate the practical results of the experiments that Klaver conducted with his self-made camera and colour filter system. Besides several colour prints on paper, there is also a 9×12 cm box for negative plates, which is labelled with a text written by Klaver: ‘Opnamen driekleuren toestel’ (‘Shots Three-Colour Camera’). In this box are small exposed glass plates with coloured emulsion that are certain to have come from his camera. The yellow image has discoloured into orange. Klaver had not yet added the yellow image to the composition. To provide a complete picture, this has now been added through the use of a computer. The three black-and-white partial negatives that Klaver had exposed in his camera during the first step were nowhere to be found in his photographic legacy. The three coloured glass plates were acquired after the corresponding black-and-white partial negatives had been printed as contact prints.

After studying the colour shots described above, Gert Koshofer, Klaus Hübner and Gerhard Bersick—all three German photo historians and experts in colour photography—came to the following conclusions: Klaver’s colour filter breaks up the incoming light into the three primary colours: red, green, and blue. Ill. 9 indicates how the yellow (G) and the purple (P) filters divide the three main colours that enter from the objective (L). For the manufacture of the three coloured glass plates, Klaver is very likely to have used one of the two following options: 1) the colouring agent was applied in the emulsion to the glass at a later point; 2) the glass positives already had the appropriate pigment/gelatin layer: after exposure, the unexposed material was rinsed off (‘Auswaschrelief’ or ‘wash-off relief’, as described in Koshofer 1981 Volume III fig. 76).

Glass positives with the correct pigment/gelatin layer, suitable for the ‘Auswaschrelief’ process, were available in these years for all kinds of three-colour processes. Klaver continued searching for a filter with improved absorption and reflection. In a typewritten report (in the bequeathed documentation that was donated to the Print Room): ‘I was able to make thin-film filters with a thickness of 1/100–2/100 m.m. and I succeeded at adding to this the increased reflection as described with my first model using glass filters.’ He added that—for safety reasons—it was preferable to not file a patent on his detailed descriptions concerning the complicated treatments of the surface layers on the glass plates and the thin-film filters, but to consider these rather as factory secrets. This argument, together with his financial problems, probably explains why he did not continue his pursuit to obtain the definitive rights for two German patents on his filter system (nos. K119741 and K126933).

How much was Klaver ahead of his time? This can best be determined based on the competing patents he had to circumnavigate. Klaver’s patent requests nos. K119741 and K126933 were not accepted outright because the agency had maintained there was too great of a similarity with a French patent of 1911 (patent no. 433187), as well as two German patents from 1913 and 1927 respectively (patent nos. 274582 and 526309). Patent no. 274582 of 1913, which originally belonged to the British inventor Eyre Coote Townsend of Brighton, already includes a three-colour filter with two intersecting dichroic filters such as introduced by Klaver. Townsend placed corrective lenses in front of the film surfaces in order to adjust for the optical errors caused by the diagonally positioned filters.

Klaver attempted to avoid costly corrective lenses and invested all of his chemical knowledge and technical skill into solving the problem of optical errors when determining the right colour layers and when applying them to very thin filters. To this end, he designed extremely fine thin-film filters.

In the cross-section drawing of his camera (ill. 9), two glass plates (a1 and a2) have been drawn in. The plate ‘a1’ is placed diagonally—as seen from the incoming blue rays of light—across from the purple filter (P); the plate ‘a2’ is placed diagonally across from the yellow filter (G). Apparently, Klaver wished to (partially) eliminate the optical errors caused by the diagonal positioning of a three-colour filter element by means of the opposing diagonal positioning of the corresponding glass plate. Jan van Dijk observed that these glass plates would then have to be oriented in another way. Remarkably enough, the glass plates are absent in the original camera. Additionally, no slots have been made into which the glass plates could have been slid. In the competing patents of 1913 and 1927, the idea of using diagonally placed corrective glass plates is nowhere to be found. Perhaps this was Klaver’s own invention. Klaus Hübner has suggested the possibility that the glass plates ‘a1’ and ‘a2’ might also have been grey filters, so that the exposure times for the three black-and-white glass negatives could be made the same.

Klaver had entered into an area of substantial technical complexity in the 1930s. With his ideas for solutions to these problems, he was indeed ahead of his time. Without the vacuum evaporation techniques known today, a three-colour filter possessing the correct optical qualities, as he had envisioned, would hardly have been attainable. He would not have been able to manufacture such a filter of consistent quality in the form of serial production.

In the end, the funds that Klaver invested were basically poured down the drain. He continued to pay his precision mechanic, L. Blok, for years. The costly patent requests and the annual payments required to extend the patents landed Klaver in major financial trouble. He was obliged to postpone payments on a regular basis, the rent for ‘t Oude Spyker was often paid late, and there are no signs of any income coming out of the patents. Despite his clever ideas and substantial investments, Klaver’s inventions would never bring him any fame. He was surpassed by the makers of, for example, the Gasparcolor process (1933), the Kodachrome process (1935), and the Agfacolor process (1936). These techniques—functioning without the use of filters, being more consistent in quality and having a greater working speed—were to become popular especially after the war, hence ensuring that Klaver’s inventions were to be completely forgotten.

Luite Klaver was never lacking in ideas, be it as a plant cultivator, photographer, or an inventor. What he was missing was business acumen and a good judgement of character. It was precisely due to the lack of these talents that the commercial applications for many of his—albeit intriguing—experiments and discoveries were never realised. Although Klaver’s daughter Claire was perhaps not entirely mistaken in qualifying her father as an ‘anti-social fantasist’, re-examining his role in the history of photography is nevertheless justified based on his clear analyses of various problems related to the technique of colour photography. Klaver’s promising inventions were respected by the scientists and technicians of his day in the Netherlands, Belgium (Gevaert), and the United Kingdom (Ilford), to which the letters in his legacy attest. Klaver’s solutions, however, were simply ill suited for serial production.


Primary bibliography

foto’s in:

Buiten. Geïllustreerd weekblad aan het buitenlevengewijd 6 (21 december 1912) 51, p. 609.


litho ‘s, pentekeningen e.d. in:

K. Siderius, Pla ten-typen, Amsterdam (S.L. van Looy) 1899-1905, 4 dln. (deel I: Voorjaarsbloemen, 1899, met kleurenlitho’s en pentekeningen van Th. Nieuwenhuis en L. Klaver; deel II: Meibloemen, 1901; deel III: Zomerbloemen, 1903; deel IV: Zomerbloemen en sporeplanten, 1905, deel II t /m IV zijn geïllustreerd door L. Klaver).

K. Siderius, De zaailingappel. Zijne geschiedenis en zijne toekomst, Amsterdam (S.L. van Looy) 1904 (met gekleurde litho’s en pentekeningen van L. Klaver).

J. Ritzema Bos, Nederlandse planten, Amsterdam (S.L. van Looy) 1905 (met 55 lithografieën in kleur door Th. Nieuwenhuis en L. Klaver).

Secondary bibliography

Auteur onbekend, [zonder titel], in Nieuws en advertentieblad van Epe en omstreken 7 maart 1914.

Auteur onbekend, [zonder titel], in Nieuws en advertentieblad van Epe en omstreken 14 maart 1914.

Anoniem (= Adriaan Boer), Een Hollandsche uitvinding voor kleurenfotografie, in Focus 16 (2 februari 1929) 3, p. 60-61.

A.B. (= Adriaan Boer), Aftrekbare ontwikkelpapieren volgens het patent Klaver en wat daarmee mogelijk wordt, in Focus 16 (16 februari 1929) 4, p. 93-94.

Auteur onbekend, Clare Lennart over het leven van haar vader. L. Klaver exposeert in Universiteitshuis, in Nieuw Utrechts Dagblad 14 oktober 1953.

Hans Roest, Luyten Klaver schilder van het eeuwige verlangen. De vijf en tachtigjarige is ‘nog niet klaar’, in Het Nieuwe Dagblad 13 augustus 1955.

Fré Dommisse, Over Clare Lennart, Den Haag/Rotterdam (Nijgh & Van Ditmar) z.j. [ca. 1965] (serie: Nieuwe Nijgh boeken no. 17).

Clare Lennart, Weleer, Den Haag/Rotterdam (Nijgh & Van Ditmar) 1971.

Clare Lennart, Luite Klaver, in Brochure bij tentoonstelling in Voerman Museum te Hattem december 1972.

Auteur onbekend, Tentoonstelling L. Klaver in het museum Achterstraat 48, in De Homoet. Weekblad voor Hattem en de Noord-Veluwe 7 december 1972.

Dolf Verroen, Herinneringen aan Clare Lennart, Den Haag/Rotterdam (Nijgh & Van Ditmar) 1975.

Clare Lennart en Eveline H. Klaver, Weleer, deel II, Den Haag/Rotterdam (Nijgh & Van Ditmar) 1976.

Flip Bool en Kees Broos, Fotografie in Nederland 1920-1940, Den Haag (Staatsuitgeverij) 1979, p. 107, 152.

Eveline H. Klaver, Claartje mijn zusje, Den Haag/Rotterdam (Nijgh & Van Ditmar) 1979.

Catalogus tent. Zien en gezien worden. Fotografische zelfbespiegeling in Nederland van ca. 1840 tot heden, Nijmegen (Nijmeegs Museum ‘Commanderie van Sint-Jan’) 1983, p. 52, 88.

K. Roodenburg, Kunstenaars op de Noordwest Veluwe 1880-1980. Het vervolg, Harderwijk (Vereniging Vrienden van het Veluws Museum) 1996.

Johan Degewij, Luite Klaver (1870-1960) uitvinder en kunstenaar, in Photohistorisch Tijdschrift. 22 (1999) 4, p. 91-94.


Nederlandse Amateur Fotografen Vereniging, vanaf 1924.


1914 (g) Epe, Gemeentehuis, [schilderijen en foto’s].


1926, 21 april Engels octrooi nr. 269912 (aftrekbare emulsie).

1926, 21 april Frans octrooi nr. 632972 (aftrekbare emulsie).

1926, 22 juni Duits octrooi nr. 445078 (aftrekbare emulsie).

1927, 16 april Belgisch octrooi nr. 341760 (aftrekbare emulsie).

1928, 16 oktober Nederlands octrooi nr. 19135 (aftrekbare emulsie).


Andijk, Lenie Burger-Klaver.

Apeldoorn, Ineke Klaver.

Bergisch Gladbach, Klaus Hübner.

Bergisch Gladbach, Gert Koshofer.

Den Haag, Willem Rappard.

Den Haag, Luc Verkoren.

Gavirate (Italië), Andries van Onck.

Hattem, Mevr. M. van Heeckeren van Molecaten-van der Leeuw.

Hattem, Gerrit Kouwenhoven.

‘s-Hertogenbosch, Arne van Onck.

‘s-Hertogenbosch, Evelien van Onck.

Leiden, Prentenkabinet, bibliotheek en documentatiebestand.

Rijswijk, Cornelis Visser.

Soest, Gerda Klaver.

Utrecht, Evelien Andreas.

Utrecht, Jan van Dijk.


Leiden, Prentenkabinet Universiteit Leiden.