PhotoLexicon, Volume 20, nr. 35 (August 2003) (en)

Frederik Gräfe

Ingeborg Th. Leijerzapf


Frederik Gräfe is an example of a local photographer working in the second half of the nineteenth century, who photographed the buildings and people around him. From a topographic perspective, photos taken by local studios are above all relevant to the city in which they are located. When considered together with all other local and regional topographic oeuvres, however, they also present a composite image of the Netherlands in the nineteenth century. Gräfe represents yet an additional phenomenon—by no means unique and for this reason interesting—i.e. the interconnectedness of local studios based on family ties and takeovers. The same applies to Gräfe, who was Emma Kirchner’s brother-in-law. It was through Kirchner that Gräfe ended up working in photography and from her that he learned the profession.




Frederik Christiaan Filip (Frederik) Gräfe is born on 30 January 1835 in Amsterdam. He comes from a family having the profession of a smith or toolmaker. Frederik initially receives training in this field.


In Delft, Frederik Gräfe marries Maria Amalia Louise (Maria) Kirchner, born in Leipzig, on 22 August. The marriage act states Gräfe’s profession as a gun-maker.

In the civil registry, his profession is stated as: smith. The young couple moves to Wijk (‘Neighbourhood’) 1, No. 179 (= Zuiderstraat or its immediate vicinity, including the Vijverstraat). Not until October does Gräfe have his name removed from the Amsterdam civil registry.


Emma Kirchner, Gräfe’s sister-in-law, arrives in Delft from Leipzig and opens the photography studio ‘E. Kirchner & Co.’, at Wijk 1, No. 179, with Gräfe as a business partner.


Gräfe’s son, Artois Maximillian Alexandre, is born. He will later become a photographer.


Starting in 1866, Gräfe is the owner of a block of five buildings on the Zuiderstraat, including No. 164. In 1871, he sells four of the five buildings. Only Zuiderstraat 164 remains in his possession.


In October 1871, the Gräfe family, which by this time has grown to seven people (Gräfe and his wife will have three daughters and four sons in total) moves to Wijk 1, No. 168m (= later Zuiderstraat 136) in Delft. At this address, Gräfe sets up his photographic studio. On 21 December, he places the following advertisement in the Delftsche Courant: ‘The undersigned announces to his honourable Clients that his Studio has moved to the Zuiderstraat, Wijk 1, No. 168m, simultaneously thanking them for the trust that he has enjoyed for the last eight years, since the Studio was set up by him and operated under his direction in the firm, E. Kirchner & Co. By improving the internal organisation, he is able to achieve what Photography requires. [Signed:] E. Kirchner & Co. F. Gräfe.’

Initially, Gräfe continues to state that his studio was founded ‘onder de Firma E. Kirchner & Co.’ (‘under the Firm E. Kirchner & Co.’) in his advertisements and on the reverse sides of the carte-de-visite portraits, with or without the addition ‘since 1863’. His photos, however, are stamped only with ‘F. Gräfe’. Emma Kirchner stays at the old studio at Zuiderstraat, Wijk 1, No. 179e and rents the building from Gräfe. Evidently, there is enough work for two studios located at such a short distance from each other.

On the reverse of Gräfe’s photos and in the newspaper Delftsche Courant, his studio promotes the following kinds of photos: ‘(…) non-fading photographs, phototype, photolithography, carbotype, etc.’ Gräfe does stereoscopy and has mastered the platinum printing process. Other areas of his work are reproductions of ‘Architectural Plans, Drawings, Title Plates, Signatures, etc. etc.’

Atelier Gräfe makes landscape shots, cityscapes of Delft (important architectural structures, some of which were about to be torn down) and special events. For the rest, portraits of orphans, city inhabitants, well-known figures and students, portraits of the dead, reproductions and enlargements. The portraits are usually bust portraits, taken in three-quarter profile, i.e. the front and profile view. Several of Gräfe’s student portraits are highly reminiscent of the compositions for which I.D. Kiek, a photographer in Leiden, became famous: free poses of young men for whom drinking and cigars has become a priority in their lives and whose lifestyle takes the form of students acting up, leaning against each other in a somewhat forced manner. Masquerade photos also fall under the category of student life.

Besides his photo studio, Gräfe has a lithographic printing office, where he prints the reverse sides of the carte-de-visite portraits for both Emma Kirchner and himself.


According to information printed on the reverse of a carte-de-visite portrait, Gräfe receives a distinction for his scientific lectures (no mention is made regarding the topics of these lectures) on 27 April.


In January, Gräfe receives a letter of thanks from Prince Frederik for: ‘a large-scale representation of the party facilities for the construction sites during the 200th anniversary celebration of the Artillery-Instalments.’ As a result, he becomes: ‘Court Photographer, with a permit to use the Prince’s coat-of-arms.’

From this point onward, a crowned coat-of-arms now decorates the reverse side of Gräfe’s photos.


The address of Gräfe’s firm is changed from Wijk 1, No. 168m to Zuiderstraat 136 in Delft.


Gräfe opens a branch in Rotterdam at Westewagenstraat 97.


Gräfe’s wife, Maria Kirchner, dies on 2 February. Several months later he marries Cornelia Diehl.


Gräfe acquires the building at Oude Delft 173 and moves to this address on 22 October.


Artois M.A. Gräfe moves to Tienen in Belgium, where he opens a photographic studio together with his colleague, Ger Linksens.

Ca. 1893-‘94

Frederik Gräfe sells the building at Oude Delft 173 to one ‘Mr. Cromhout’ and buys it back one year later.


On 3 September, Gräfe leaves for ‘Hof van Delft’ (‘Court of Delft’). Several weeks later, he departs for Amsterdam, where he registers as a ‘kastelein’ (‘barkeeper’?), photographer and ‘werkman’ (‘workman’). Gräfe resides in hotels. In the building at Oude Delft 173, Pestman & Co. continue running the photographic studio and the lithographic printing company.


On 31 August, Gräfe returns to Delft from Amsterdam and moves back to Oude Delft 173, where he lives and works as a photographer and printer up until his death.


Frederik Gräfe dies in Delft on 14 May.


Primary bibliography

(eigen publicaties: tekst, eventueel met foto ‘s, maar ook fotoboeken e.d)

(Advertentie) Delftsche Courant 1 september 1872.

(Advertentie) Delftsche Courant 15 juni 1883.

(Advertentie) Delftsche Courant 28 oktober 1894.


(foto ‘s in boeken, tijdschriften en ander drukwerk)

C.D. Goudappel, Delft rond de eeuwwisseling, Delft (Elmar) zj. [ca. 1966], p. 1-2,4.

Jan Coppens (samenstelling), Een camera vol stilte. Nederland in het begin van de fotografie 1839-1875, Amsterdam (Meulenhoff) 1976, afb. 47.

W. Annema en C.D. Goudappel, Kerkelijk leven en kerkbouwgeschiedenis, in J.W.L. Hilkhuijsen (hoofdred.),

De stad Delft. Cultuur en maatschappij [4] van 1813 tot 1914, Delft (Stedelijk Museum Het Prinsenhof) 1992, p. 165.

Secondary bibliography

H.C.H. Moquette, Catalogus van de portretverzameling. Archief der Gemeente Rotterdam, Rotterdam (Van Waesberge & Zoon) 1917, p. 347 (no. 2826).

Catalogus tent. Het groepsportret 1845-1922, Eindhoven (Van Abbemuseum) 1977, ongepag.

Erik Kreytz, ‘Een familie in de fotografie te Delft (1863-1899). Emma Kirchner, Frederik Gräfe, Henri de Louw’, in Photohistorisch tijdschrift 8 (1985) 2, p. 20-23.

Irma van Bommel, De fotografie, in J.W.L. Hilkhuijsen (hoofdred.), De stad Delft. Cultuur en maatschappij [4] van 1813 tot 1914, Delft (Stedelijk Museum Het Prinsenhof) 1992, p. 293-294, 296-297.

Steven Wachlin, Fotografen – een overzicht, in J.W.L. Hilkhuijsen (hoofdred.), De stad Delft. Cultuur en maatschappij [4] van 1813 tot 1914, Delft (Stedelijk Museum Het Prinsenhof) 1992, p. 304-306.

Petra Notenboom en Marjan Reinders (tekst), Emma Kirchner. Een 19de-eeuwse fotografe belicht, Delft (Museum Paul Tetar van Elven) 2003, p. 6-8, 17-21,23.


1878, 27 april Onderscheiding voor wetenschappelijke voordrachten.

1880 Hoffotograaf.


1977 (s) Eindhoven, Van Abbemuseum, Het groepsportret 1845-1922.

2003 (e) Delft, Museum Paul Tétar van Elven, Emma Kirchner, een 19de-eeuwse fotografe belicht.


Delft, Gemeentearchief.

Leiden, Studie en Documentatie Centrum voor Fotografie, Prentenkabinet Universiteitsbibliotheek Leiden.

Rotterdam, Petra Notenboom.

Utrecht, Steven Wachlin.


Amsterdam, Rijksprentenkabinet/Rijksmuseum.

Delft, Gemeentearchief Delft.

Leiden, Prentenkabinet Universiteitsbibliotheek Leiden.

Rotterdam, Gemeentearchief.