PhotoLexicon, Volume 28, nr. 44 (October 2011) (en)

Théodore van Lelyveld

Pieter Eckhardt


From the moment the amateur painter Théodore van Lelyveld arrived in Suriname in 1894 to become an assistant to Governor Van Asch van Wijck, he was using his camera on a regular basis. Contrary to most other amateur photographers active at this time, he was not only photographing aspects of his daily life. The small oeuvre that emerged over a period of four years (1895-1898) reveals him to be a careful observer with a broad interest in the people of Suriname and their society. Van Lelyveld methodically shot photos of the various ethnic groups, plantations, landscapes, and the Dutch (governing) community.




Théodore Bernard (Théodore) van Lelyveld is born on 18 February 1867 in Semarang (Dutch East Indies) as the son of Willem Anne Justinus Theodore van Lelyveld, a sugar manufacturer on the island of Java, and Rose Flore Gertrude Sayers. The family is a member of the Dutch Reformed Church.


At the age of eighteen, Van Lelyveld is sent to the Netherlands to attend primary school in Utrecht and thereafter to the HBS (Hogere Burgerschool, an upper-level secondary school).


After studying at the Military School in Haarlem, Van Lelyveld is made Second Lieutenant in the Infantry.


Van Lelyveld is stationed in The Hague, where he meets Dina (Dolly) van Emden (1871-1955), whom he weds in 1892. The couple moves to Amersfoort.


On 18 January, the Van Lelyvelds’ first daughter is born, named Catharina Johanna Rose van Lelyveld. She dies less than one month later on 3 February.


Van Lelyveld participates as an amateur photographer in the Internationale Photographie-tentoonstelling (‘International Photography Exhibition’) held from 14 to 29 July 1894 in Arnhem, where his photos ‘op militair gebied’ (‘in the area of the military’) are exhibited.


Van Lelyveld becomes an adjutant of the governor of Suriname. Over a period of four years, he serves the governors Jonkheer T.A.J. van Asch van Wijck and LL.M. Warmolt Tonckens. Van Lelyveld initially lives with his wife on the Gravenstraat in Paramaribo. From March 1896 on, they live at Fort Zeelandia. On 28 September 1896, the couple’s second daughter, Rosa Charlotte van Lelyveld (1896-1976), is born in Paramaribo.


Van Lelyveld is appointed as one of the military members sitting on the ‘Militair Gerechtshof voor de Nederlandsche West-Indische Bezittingen’ (‘Military Court for the Dutch West Indies Possessions’) in Suriname.


Van Lelyveld returns to the Netherlands, to his garrison in The Hague.


By this time a First Lieutenant with the grenadiers, Van Lelyveld is placed on non-active after a ‘serious fall’ and subsequently determined as unfit for military service. After taking drawing lessons with the sculptor Charles van Wijk, Van Lelyveld attends the KABK (Koninklijke Academie van Beeldende Kunsten, ‘Royal Academy of Art’) in The Hague.

Van Lelyveld travels to Barbizon, together with his friend the Dutch painter Théophile de Bock (1851-1904). In this year, Van Lelyveld also travels with his wife to Corsica. He records an account of this trip in an album for his daughter Roosje, which he illustrates with his own photos.


Two years following the death of Van Asch van Wijck, Van Lelyveld publishes an article about the former governor in the magazine Eigen Haard : ‘A popular governor and a grateful population’.


After completing his schooling in The Hague, Van Lelyveld attends the Académie Julian in Paris, where he studies mainly portrait painting. In the summer of 1905, Van Lelyveld takes a summer course in outdoor painting with the British painter and etcher Frank Brangwyn (1867-1956) in Bruges, Belgium. Van Lelyveld writes two articles for De Gids (‘The Guide’) about abuses in French Guiana, ‘Het bagno in Fransch-Guyana’ (‘The Bagnio [‘Prison’] in French Guiana’). Van Lelyveld and his wife move to Laren.


Van Lelyveld hires the architect Hendrik Elzinga to build a villa with a studio on the Oude Naarderweg in Laren: ‘Rozenhoeve’, named after his daughter Roosje.


Van Lelyveld travels to Italy, together with his wife.


Paintings by Van Lelyveld are exhibited at the art dealership Kunsthandel J.C. Schüller in The Hague.


In December 1912, Van Lelyveld departs the country where he was born, the Dutch East Indies, in order to paint. He stays for four years. In 1916, he produces the state portrait of Governor-General A.W.F. Idenburg.


Willy Sluiter makes a drawing in the Dutch East Indies, which depicts Van Lelyveld as a painter working in the Dutch colony.


In 1917, shortly after his return from the Dutch East Indies, Van Lelyveld and his wife divorce. Both leave Laren and move into their own separate homes in The Hague. Roosje remains with her mother until her own marriage in 1920.


In 1917, paintings by Van Lelyveld are shown at the gallery Kunstzaal Kleykamp in The Hague, entitled Tentoonstelling van schilderijen van Th. B. van Lelyveld, Indische dansmotieven, volkstypen en landschappen; en van stillevens van J.W. Kaiser (‘Exhibition of Paintings by Th. B. van Lelyveld, [Dutch East] Indian Dance Motifs, Ethnic Types and Landscapes; and of Still Lifes by J.W. Kaiser’). For a period of four years (1917-1921), Van Lelyveld is the editor of the ‘Beeldende Kunsten’ (‘Visual Arts’) section in the magazine De Loods. He writes about Western and Eastern art. From 1917-1933, Van Lelyveld writes various articles for the magazine Nederlandsch-lndië Oud en Nieuw (‘Dutch Indies Old and New’), including: De Indische bouwkunst en kunstnijverheid (‘The [Dutch East] Indian Architecture and Applied Arts’, 1917), Javaansche danskunst (‘The Art of Javanese Dance’, 1922) and Het Van Heutsz-monument te Weltevreden (‘The Van Heutsz Monument at Weltevreden’, 1933).


Van Lelyveld writes a series of four articles for De West-Indische Gids (‘The West Indies Guide’) under the title ‘De kleeding der Surinaamsche bevolkingsgroepen in verband met aard en gewoonten’ (‘The Clothing of the Surinamese Ethnic Groups in Relation to Character and Customs’), illustrated with his own photos. The four articles are released collectively as a single publication.


In 1921, Van Lelyveld becomes a board member of the Vereniging van Vrienden der Aziatische Kunst (‘Association of the Friends of Asiatic Art’). From 1921 to 1948, Van Lelyveld serves as the secretary of this association.


At the Pulchri artist’s association in The Hague, Van Lelyveld gives a lecture on the art of Javanese dance. The lecture is printed in the magazine Nederlandsch-Indië Oud en Nieuw, along with numerous illustrations, and subsequently released as a separate publication.


Van Lelyveld is a board member (treasurer) of the Pulchri artist’s association in The Hague for a period of ten years.


Paintings by Van Lelyveld are exhibited at the Te ntoonstelling van aanwinsten van de gemeente musea (‘Exhibition of Acquisitions of the Municipal Museums’), held at the Museum voor Moderne Kunst (‘Museum of Modern Art’) in The Hague.


A much loved painting of a Javanese dancer by Van Lelyveld, entitled Déwie Maherah, is lost in a fire in Paris—possibly during the fire that destroyed the Dutch pavilion at the International Colonial Exposition.

Van Lelyveld publishes the book De Javaansche danskunst (‘The Art of Javanese Dance’).


In De West-Indische Gids (‘The West Indies Guide’), an article is published about Van Lelyveld’s time in Suriname, featuring written excerpts from his daily journal dating back to that period: ‘Uit een oud dagboek’ (‘From an Old Daily Journal’).


Van Lelyveld presents various lectures on Javanese dance in the Netherlands and abroad, including Paris and London.


The illustrator J. Dalenoord draws a portrait of Van Lelyveld.


For his eighty-fifth birthday, Van Lelyveld publishes the booklet Penneschetsen onder diverse luchten (‘Penned Sketches under various Skies’). The book features articles (excerpts), chiefly concerning Van Lelyveld’s trips to France, Suriname, and the Dutch East Indies. The articles/excerpts were previously published in the magazines Elseviers geïllustreerd maandschrift (‘Elseveiers Illustrated Monthly’), Groot Nederland (‘Great Netherlands’), Nederland, and De Gids.


Van Lelyveld dies on 7 October 1954 in The Hague, where he is buried on 12 October.


Théodore van Lelyveld was born into a wealthy Dutch patrician family on 18 February 1867 in Semarang in the Dutch East Indies. In 1875, at the age of eight, he was sent to the Netherlands to attend school in Utrecht, by which time his father had already died in 1870. Although Théodore would have preferred to study at the art academy in Antwerp, like his friend Arthur Briët, his stepfather back in the Dutch East Indies required that he first complete the HBS (Hogere Burgerschool, an upper-level secondary school). Van Lelyveld then went on to attend the Military School in Haarlem. Upon completing his officer’s training in 1890, Van Lelyveld was made Second Lieutenant in the infantry and stationed in The Hague. There he met Dina van Emden, whom he married in 1892. Dina, or ‘Dolly’ as she was called, was born on 20 July 1871 in Paramaribo, Suriname. She therefore had a Surinamese background. Her father was Abraham Julius (Bram) van Emden, a prominent figure in Suriname who had held numerous senior governing functions.

In late 1894, Van Lelyveld and his wife departed for Suriname based on his appointment as adjutant of the governor of Suriname, Jonkheer T.A.J. van Asch van Wijck. They arrived there on 3 December 1894 and initially moved into a home on the Gravenstraat. In Suriname, Van Lelyveld was very soon impressed by the natural surroundings. He devoted much of his time to drawing tropical plants, including a series of watercolours depicting the orchids he encountered during his excursions across Suriname, which he subsequently planted in his garden. Van Lelyveld would later donate these watercolours (fifty-four in total), including drawings of several unknown sorts, to the Rijksherbarium (‘National Herbarium’) in Leiden. In return, he was awarded with a silver museum medal. In Suriname, Van Lelyveld’s artistic talent expressed itself in other areas as well. He set up a soldiers’ theatrical club and turned his attention to photography. He also investigated the dire conditions at the French penal colony in nearby French Guiana. In Paramaribo, Van Lelyveld had come into contact with refugees from this French deportation colony. They told him about the inhumane treatment there, while he shot their photographs. Van Lelyveld later wrote about his impressions in two articles appearing in the magazine De Gids (‘The Guide’, 1904 and 1905). These publications not only sparked a debate in the Dutch House of Representatives (the ‘Tweede Kamer’, or ‘Second Chamber’), but his findings also led to the public discussion of this topic in France.

The earliest sign of Van Lelyveld’s photographic activity appears in an article published in the Het nieuws van den dag. Kleine courant (‘The News of the Day’) in 1894. The article provided an account of the Internationale Photographie-tentoonstelling (‘International Photography Exhibition’) held at the Musis Sacrum in Arnhem from 14 to 29 July in that same year. Among the participants, Van Lelyveld was described as an amateur photographer who drew attention with the photos he submitted: ‘Among the amateur National Junior photographers, the entry of Van Lelyveld shines out, who exhibits photos on the topic of the military. The running horses and the jumping horses are highly interesting and are certain to have been exposed in no less than 1/200th of a second.’ The Weekblad voor Fotografie (‘Weekly for Photography’) devoted a complimentary issue to the exhibition. Throughout the further course of his life, Van Lelyveld scarcely profiled himself as a photographer. He used his photos only on a few occasions, as illustrations to accompany his articles on topics related to Suriname. It would appear that Van Lelyveld viewed himself more as an artist and scientific researcher than as a talented amateur photographer.

A photo album entitled Souvenirs de voyage is preserved at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, which includes more than 130 photos shot by Van Lelyveld during his years in Suriname (1894-1898). He furnished many of these photos with captions, thereby specifically stating names, places, and dates. With his group portraits, he wrote the names of everyone depicted, drawing lines to indicate who was who in the photo. In addition to groups, Van Lelyveld also photographed a wide variety of other subjects: street scenes of the lively Waterkant (a main street) in Paramaribo, family life in and around his home in Paramaribo, Queen’s Day festivities on the Gouvernementsplein (‘Government Square’), various ethnic groups in the city and the interior, the overwhelming nature, various plantations, the Mariënburg sugar factory, hospital patients, prison refugees from French Guiana, as well as numerous excursions. For those group shots in which Van Lelyveld himself appears, it remains unclear whether the images were also taken by him (using a delayed action shutter release) or by someone in his surroundings operating the camera.

Van Lelyveld shot many of his photos during his travels and stops across Suriname that were made for his work. As the governor’s adjutant, he accompanied Governor Van Asch van Wijck and other dignitaries (and their partners) on numerous visits to meet with various people and to see different regions of the country. In 1934, the West-Indische Gids (‘West Indies Guide’) published excerpts from Van Lelyveld’s daily journal, in which he describes a number of trips to places such as the Waijombo River, Coronie, the Saramacca River and its surroundings, the Para District, and the town Albina. Accompanying his article in De West-Indische Gids, Van Lelyveld published five photos taken from his photo album, including a panorama shot of Albina and of the Batavia Leprosy Institute. Place names, data, and the people, experiences, and nature as described in his journal excerpts correspond with the images that appear in the album, e.g. Van Lelyveld’s visit to the village Onoribo in the Para District on 8 August 1895 in the company of the governor. The visit is recorded in the form of a photo from the album as well as a description in his journal: ‘In the villages, the entire population waits for the Governor and his company, dressed in the finest clothes, with many gunshots of tribute from the men, while the women and daughters, in the colourful widespread skirts, jouncing and dancing, yelling and singing, approach the upper leader and, after an exuberant wave, respectfully lay their colourful flowered headdresses, one by one, in a long runner at the feet of the Governor.’ The photo in the album shows the runner of headdresses and the governor. In one journal excerpt, Van Lelyveld describes a scene in which he photographed a group of Indians near Tittiebo Creek during his trip along the Waijombo River: ‘With our approach, the dogs growl, the naked children quickly run to hide. When I want to take a photo at Tittibo Creek, one of the younger women first puts on a long cotton overgarment, the men ornament themselves with a vest-like garment, cover themselves with turned-down, old felt hats. In the city they have to show up somewhat clothed, that is why they believed that I preferred to have them be fashionable for the photo, rather than just the national kamisa, the loincloth pulled up between the legs.’

Van Lelyveld is certain to have known the work of the renowned amateur photographer Julius E. Muller (1846-1902), a contemporary who was also active as a photographer in Suriname during the years 1882–1902. In January 1895, 300 photos by Muller were exhibited at a major exhibition in Paramaribo on the Gravenstraat, the street where Van Lelyveld was living at that time. Even though Van Lelyveld had only arrived one month earlier in the country, there is a very good chance that he, as an amateur photographer and as the governor’s adjutant, had seen Muller’s photographic oeuvre. After the exhibition, the photos were even handed over to the governor, who in June of that year ensured the photos were shipped to the Netherlands, in order to be exhibited at various locations. In the choice of subject matter, the two amateur photographers resemble each other markedly: cityscapes, the annual celebrations of the Surinamese people on Queen’s Day on the Gouvernementsplein, ethnic types, contract workers from Java and British India, trips to the interior with the governor. Muller too—a member of the Colonial States—was closely associated with Governor Van Asch van Wijck. Quite conceivably, Muller’s photographic work may very well have been what led Van Lelyveld to photography. Despite the many similarities in subject matter, however, Van Lelyveld distinguished himself from Muller through his reportage photography. Van Lelyveld was a good observer and far ahead of his time. As a ‘documentary’ photographer, he took shots of people on the street, the festive masses along the Waterkant and on the Gouvernementsplein, as well as all kinds of ethnic groups. He photographed dancing Javanese women at the so-called ‘coolie depot’, the place where contract workers were gathered upon their arrival in Suriname, without it appearing as if they had posed for him. With his penetrating photo reportages, it seems as if he was trying to portray day-to-day life as it actually was. The result was a series of high-quality shots, clearly taken by an amateur photographer with an artistic viewpoint. Julius Muller wished to portray the Dutch colony in the most positive light possible. Van Lelyveld, however, went further. In his work, the posing figures in no way come across as stiff, artificial, or forced. With Muller, this was often the case. A beautiful example is Van Lelyveld’s photo of Javanese women at the coolie depot: he followed the endless row of women with his camera, at the same time with an eye for their surroundings and the situation in which these women found themselves. Unlike Muller, Van Lelyveld never produced stereotypical photos of ethnic types standing in front of a painted decor in his garden.

All the different ethnic groups in Suriname must have particularly fascinated Van Lelyveld. His photo album is filled with photos of Indians, Maroons, and contract workers from British India and Java, whom he photographed both individually and in groups. It should be added that Van Lelyveld’s photographic interest in the different cultures of Suriname was by no means unique at this time. By as early as the 1860s, professional photographers, e.g. Selomoh del Castilho and Ferdinand Harten, were already taking stereotypical shots of ethnic groups that were destined for the commercial market. Many of these popular ‘ethnic types’ were photographed in Paramaribo, either in a studio or in front of a painted canvas in the garden, for instance, when people visited the market or attended festivities such as Queen’s Day. Because it was easier to supply photographic supplies from Europe starting in the 1880s, the number of photography studios in Paramaribo increased dramatically. During the late nineteenth/early twentieth century, the main photographers working in Suriname were R. del Castilho (from 1894), Clarisse Heilbron, (from 1889), F.H. Murray (from 1894), Eugen Klein (from 1897), C.J. Chapman (from 1899), and Augusta Curiel (from 1904). This led to a rise in the photographic interest in the different ethnic groups. Furthermore, modernised processes had made it easier to shoot photos than ever before, as well in the country’s interior. The same applied for amateurs like Van Lelyveld.

Van Lelyveld in no way harboured any commercial intentions with his photos. He used his photos only a few times as illustrations to accompany his own articles on topics that concerned Suriname, such as his article in Eigen Haard (1904). For this written piece on Governor Van Asch van Wijck, Van Lelyveld published a photo of the governmental palace in Paramaribo, without crediting himself as the photographer. In 1919, a study of his appeared in De West-Indische Gids in four installments, entitled ‘Kleeding der Surinaamsche bevolkingsgroepen in verband met aard en gewoonten’ (‘The Clothing of the Surinamese Ethnic Groups in Relation to Character and Customs’). The four articles were richly illustrated ‘with shots by the writer’—i.e. Van Lelyveld’s own photography of ethnic types. He also relied on images taken by other photographers, including Augusta Curiel, Eugen Klein, G.M. Oosterling, and W. Amo. The photos by these other photographers are of a later date than Van Lelyveld’s own photos. At his studio, he conducted research into the traditional clothing, traditions, and customs according to each ethnic group. He regretted that the traditional clothing was being worn less and less, and that people in Suriname had begun to dress themselves more frequently in Western attire. Despite his fascination with the different cultures, he was not overly positive when it came to the ‘negerbevolking’ (‘negroid population’) of Suriname, which he viewed as primitive: ‘the blacks have never been a people of culture’. He was more positive about the ‘negervrouw’ (‘negroid woman’): ‘Contrary to the male members of her race, she cannot be accused of laziness.’ Van Lelyveld felt a greater affinity with the race of the East Indians: ‘We Europeans sense unconsciously, that these descendants of the Asiatic race, of which we too are distant children, are more similar to us than the negroids, the Indians and the Javanese. Their physical build, which is generally more beautiful than our own, as well as the structure of the skull, which is often hardly any different than that of the European, indicate this connection.

Might Van Lelyveld have produced these photos of different ethnic groups specifically for his study of Surinamese attire and customs? The answer is: most likely not. In his articles in the De West-Indische Gids, Van Lelyveld referred not only to his own photos, but also expressly to images taken by other photographers. He apparently judged his own photographic oeuvre to be incomplete and insufficiently broad in scope for a publication or study of this nature. Why did he not photograph the clothing motifs in greater detail, such as the Surinamese headdresses and ‘kotomisies’ (traditional dresses), or make separate photos of the jewellery worn by East Indians and indigenous peoples? After all, they were topics he addressed extensively and in detail in his articles. Apart from his exceptional reportage style, to photograph these subjects was nothing unique at this time. Furthermore, Van Lelyveld’s articles were published more than twenty years after he left Suriname and after having lived in the Dutch East Indies for an additional four years. One may cautiously conclude that he photographed aspects of his everyday life in Suriname, or the things he encountered, for instance, during excursions in the company of the governor. Some of Van Lelyveld’s photos proved to be useful as illustration material for his study of Surinamese traditional attire, but probably at a later point. One photo from his album depicts, for instance, ‘onze kokkie met dochtertje’ (‘our kokkie with her little daughter’): a photo of a creole woman dressed in a kotomisi, shown with her daughter in Western clothing. They are posing in Van Lelyveld’s garden. Twenty years later, this same photo was used in his own study, ‘in order to illustrate “the mimicking nature of the negroid race”(…) the desire to be the same as the European in outer appearance will perhaps gradually bring about even greater concessions in the clothing; the way in which small girls are dressed up already points to this.’ Another photo in the album is of ‘Georgientje’ (‘Little Georgine’). Dressed in a kotomisi, she looks calmly into the lens with a laugh. Georgientje, just as ‘kokkie’, was likely working for Van Lelyveld, who photographed her at the time simply as a servant girl wearing a festive dress. In his article, the same photo was used to illustrate the ‘kotto-soema’, a form of traditional female attire in which the women wear no shoes. In Van Lelyveld’s photo, Georgientje is indeed shown in her bare feet. Remarkably, the album includes not a single photo of an orchid, as this was a topic that Van Lelyveld studied extensively. Similarly, he is not known to have taken any photos of Javanese dance performances, a subject he studied in great detail later on, when living in the Dutch East Indies. For his book and articles about Javanese dance and Eastern art, Van Lelyveld relied on photos taken by others (such as Hendrik Freerk Tillema and an unknowns Indonesian photographer).

In his article of 1919, Van Lelyveld called for more artists to come to Suriname, in order to capture ‘pictorial’ and colourful Suriname in paintings and drawings: ‘Great Britain and France have shown their understanding that coldly accurate photos are unable to take over this task, by sending not only scholars, but also artists to research and describe their colonies overseas.’ That Van Lelyveld was no fan of a disinterested photography is evident in his own photographic oeuvre, which is the opposite of ‘coldly accurate’. His photos of Suriname present a picture of a lively country, with an abundance of nature, and various cultures and classes. He also gets up very close to his subjects. Based on a photo of the Granman and his captains dressed in full regalia, Van Lelyveld later wrote: ‘King. Great Upper-Chieftain of the Saramaccan Maroons on the Day of his Installation. When around 1895 the Great Upper-Chieftain King of the Saramaccans was elected, it even cost a great deal of trouble to convince him to come to the city [Paramaribo, P.E] in order to be installed by the Governor. On this occasion, the King and both of his captains appeared in gala attire before Governor Van Asch van Wijck and it was possible for me to photograph the lofty company. From plate 20 [RP-F-2009-282-76, P.E.] one observes the ridiculousness of the dignitary vestment: King in a general’s uniform from an old regime, in one hand his clutched governing cane, in the other his old-fashioned sabre; his adjutants in gallooned suit jackets and tall hat with orange cockade, and all three decorated with a crescent-moon-shaped silver shield [‘halsschild’], furnished with the Dutch coat of arms (…) Clearly, various elements reflect the longing to mirror the clothing and uniform of the whites; a tall hat and a suit jacket are stately. But the stateliness is enhanced by the gold buttons and gold braids, whereas the general’s uniform was the most dignified clothing one could allow oneself.’

Upon his return the Netherlands in 1898, Van Lelyveld began taking drawing lessons with the sculptor Charles van Wijck. He was accepted at the KABK in The Hague, where he sat for the exam in the ‘naaktklasse der Haagsche Academie’ (‘nude class of the Hague Academy’), which he passed with success. Van Lelyveld then departed for Paris, in part to receive lessons from the portrait painter Antonio de la Gandara. In the artist’s village Laren, Van Lelyveld painted landscapes, still lifes, and portraits. He also became acquainted with a number of artists. He wanted nothing to do with cubist and abstract art and referred to himself as ‘an arch-enemy of the ultra-modern’.

In December 1912, Van Lelyveld departed for the Dutch East Indies to paint, leaving his wife and daughter behind in the Netherlands. During the four years he spent there, he travelled across the islands of Java and Sumatra, recording his impressions in sketches and paintings of the landscape, while practicing the art of portraiture. Van Lelyveld was commissioned to paint a state portrait of Governor-General A.W.F. Idenburg intended for the Idenburg School in Solo. He was also commissioned to restore the historical portraits of the (Dutch) authorities on the Raad van Indië (‘Council of the East Indies’) in Batavia (now Jakarta), as well as those at the palace in Buitenzorg (now Bogor). He was also asked to restore a triptych at the city hall of Batavia. From 2 August to 10 August 1913, Van Lelyveld’s work was shown at an exhibition of the Nederlandsch-Indische Kunstkring (‘Netherlands-Dutch Indies Art Society’) in Batavia.

There are very few known examples of Van Lelyveld’s painting. The Royal Tropical Institute in Amsterdam has in its possession a Dutch East Indian landscape painting by Van Lelyveld, and there are several portraits known of his wife and daughter. As a painter, he never made a name for himself. When his paintings were shown at an exhibition in The Hague in 1917, the following observation was made in a review: ‘neither the figure, nor the landscape of the [Dutch East] Indies, painted by Van Lelyveld, have actual merits. They are both by a weak, styleless painter.’ Van Lelyveld did receive recognition for his book De Javaansche danskunst (‘The Javanese Art of Dance’), published in 1931. This vast and richly illustrated book on Hindu-Javanese dance and music was even translated into French. During his stay in the Dutch East Indies, Van Lelyveld was greatly impressed by the ‘still virtually untouched Javanese dance art preserved in in its classical purity’. He therefore began studying these dances. In his day, Van Lelyveld was a veritable authority in the area of Eastern art, and especially that of Indonesia. In 1921, he became the secretary of the board of the Vereniging van Vrienden der Aziatische Kunst (‘Association of Friends of Asiatic Art’), a position he would continue to hold until 1948. Van Lelyveld wrote countless articles on topics related to the East—particularly over Eastern art—for publications such as Maandblad voor Beeldende Kunsten (‘Monthly of Visual Arts’) and the magazine Nederlandsch-Indië Oud en Nieuw (‘Dutch Indies Old and New’). He also contributed to the third edition of Oosthoek’s Geïllustreerde Encyclopaedie (‘Oosthoek’s Illustrated Encyclopedia’) and collaborated on the Encyclopaedie voor Nederlandsch-Indië (‘Encyclopedia of the Dutch Indies’). Van Lelyveld gave lectures not only in the Netherlands, but also in Paris and London.

After divorcing his wife, Van Lelyveld left Laren and departed to The Hague, where he moved in artists’ circles. He became a board member of the renowned Pulchri artist’s society in The Hague, where he as well presented lectures and exhibited his work. Van Lelyveld was involved in several cultural associations in The Hague, such as—having been referred to as a ‘Francophile’—being a board member with the Hague chapter of the ‘Vereniging Nederland-Frankrijk’ (‘Netherlands-France Association’). He was honoured by the French government for his endeavours by being named a Knight in the Legion of Honour as well as an ‘Officier de l’Instruction Publique’ (‘Officer of Public Instruction’, an award for distinguished academics’). Van Leyveld was also a member of the Board of Directors of the Volksuniversiteit (‘People’s University’) in The Hague. Although his daughter was sometimes less than positive about her father, many viewed Van Lelyveld as an amiable and energetic person. For his seventieth birthday, he was interviewed by a journalist: ‘We then sat for several hours and had the most enjoyable conversation in Mr. Van Lelyveld’s room, and what I had read here and there about him and by him brought me to the conclusion that I have made the acquaintance of a remarkable man, “an artist with a scholarly inclination, standing in the middle of life and despite his nearly 70 years full of fresh drive.”‘

At the present time, it is not known whether Van Lelyveld ever worked with photography to any significant extent following his days in Suriname. The Rijksmuseum still has a second photo album in its possession, concerning a trip Van Lelyveld made to France and Corsica in 1902. With the exception of a small series of photos depicting homeless people in the street, none of the photos show a level of quality comparable to those he took in Suriname. For the remainder of his life, Van Lelyveld devoted his time chiefly to painting and the study of Eastern art and culture.

For the period circa 1900, we are chiefly familiar with the work of better known (professional) photographers working in Suriname, such as Julius E. Muller, Augusta Curiel, and Eugen Klein. Despite his small and until now previously obscure oeuvre, Van Lelyveld must certainly be included among the others as a talented amateur photographer and a good observer. He too produced the customary group portraits of the community, shots of landscapes, cityscapes, and personal photos during this period. In this respect, he was even several years ahead of Klein and Curiel. In other areas, he in fact distinguished himself from the renowned photographers of his day. Among the works found in this exceptional photographic oeuvre, Van Lelyveld’s elaborate reportage photography stands out the most. He had already photographed all of Suriname’s ethnic groups, long before photojournalists showed a real interest in the inhabitants and social structure of the country in the late twentieth century. Van Lelyveld shot photos in Suriname that easily measure up to those of the better documentary photographers of our own era.


Primary bibliography

Th.B. van Lelyveld, Het Bagno in Fransch-Guyana, in De Gids 68 (1904) 3, p. 78-119.

Th.B. van Lelyveld, Een populair gouverneur en een dankbare bevolking, in Eigen Haard. Geïllustreerd volkstijdschrift (6 augustus 1904) 32, p. 500-502 (met foto’s).

Th.B. van Lelyveld, Het Bagno in Fransch-Guyana, in De Gids 69 (1905) 3, p. 201-247.

Th.B. van Lelyveld, [diverse artikelen over kunsthistorisch onderwerpen], in Nederlandsch-lndië Oud en Nieuw 1917-1933.

Th.B. van Lelyveld, Kleeding der Surinaamsche bevolkingsgroepen in verband met aard en gewoonten, in De West-Indische Gids 1 [eerste deel] (augustus 1919) 4, p. 249-268 (met foto’s).

Th. van Lelyveld, Kleeding der Surinaamsche bevolkingsgroepen in verband met aard en gewoonten, in De West-Indische Gids 1 [eerste deel] (oktober 1919) 6, p. 458-470 (met foto’s).

Th. van Lelyveld, Kleeding der Surinaamsche bevolkingsgroepen in verband met aard en gewoonten, in De West-Indische Gids 1 [tweede deel] (november 1919) 7, p. 20-34 (met foto’s).

Th. van Lelyveld, Kleeding der Surinaamsche bevolkingsgroepen in verband met aard en gewoonten, in De West-Indische Gids 1 [tweede deel] (1919), p. 125-143 (met foto’s).

Th.B. van Lelyveld, De Javaansche danskunst, Den Haag (Hadi Poestaka) 1922 (heruitgave: Amsterdam (Van Holkema & Warendorf) 1931).

T.B. van Lelyveld, Iets over het masker en over het Javaansche masker, in Maandblad voor Beeldende Kunsten 6 (1929), p. 298-305.

T.B. van Lelyveld, De aesthetiek van den Javaansche dans, in Maandblad voor Beeldende Kunsten 8 (1931), p. 207-214.

T.B. van Lelyveld, De kris en hare voorbeelden in het museum van Aziatische kunst, in Maandblad voor Beeldende Kunsten 11 (1934), p. 357-367.

Th.B. van Lelyveld, Uit een oud dagboek, in De West-Indische Gids 16 (1934-1935 [tijdschrift op titelblad fout genummerd, nl. 1933-1934]) 17, p. 368-392.

Th.B. van Lelyveld, Dansen, in D.G. Stibbe en F.J.W.H. Sandbergen (red.), Encyclopaedie van Nederlandsch-Indië. Zevende deel, Den Haag (Martinus Nijhoff) 1935, p. 1105-1108.

T.B. van Lelyveld, Schoonheid en beteekenis van het Natarâja-beeld, in Maandblad voor Beeldende Kunsten 12 (1935), p. 291-302.

Th.B. van Lelyveld, Penneschetsen onder diverse luchten, Den Haag 1952 [bundeling van artikelen/fragmenten eerder gepubliceerd in de tijdschriften Elseviers geïllustreerd maandschrift, Groot Nederland, Nederland en De Gids].

Secundary bibliography

W., Internationale fotografie-tentoonstelling te Arnhem, in Tijdschrift voor Photographie 22 (1894), p. 106-109.

Anoniem, Internationale Photographie-Tentoonstelling te Arnhem in “Musis Sacrum”, in Het nieuws van den dag. Kleine courant 18 juli 1894, p. 5.

G.H. ’s Gravesande, Th.B. van Lelyveld 70 jaar. Een zeer veelzijdig pionier der cultuur. Schilder, ontdekker van orchideeën, kenner van Javaansche danskunst”, in Het Vaderland. Staat- en letterkundig nieuwsblad 17 februari 1937, Avondblad C, p. 1.

Th. van Erp, In memoriam Th.B. van Lelyveld, in Bulletin Vereeniging van Vrienden der Aziatische kunst, derde serie (december 1954) 3, p. 37-38.

F.D.K. Bosch, Theodoor Bernard van Lelyveld, in Jaarboek van de Maatschappij der Nederlandse Letterkunde te Leiden 1957-1958, p. 55-58.

Hugo Barend van Lelyveld, Bloemlezing over oud-oom Theodoor Bernard van Lelyveld, Enkhuizen (Stichting Fam. Van Lelyveld) 1999.

Steven Vink, Suriname door het oog van Julius Muller. Fotografie 1882-1902, Amsterdam/Parimaribo (Koninklijk Instituut voor de Tropen/Stichting Surinaams Museum) 2002.

Lien Heyting en Sander Brink, Roosje van Lelyveld en haar album, Laren (Leo Janssen Produkties) 2008.

Lien Heyting, Alles voor Roosje, in NRC Handelsblad 4 oktober 2008.

Anoniem, Wie was Roosje van Lelyveld?, in De Gooi- en Eemlander 11 november 2008.

Pieter Kottman, Surinaamse impressies. Uit het fotoalbum van Th.B. van Lelyveld (1867-1954), in NRC Handelsblad 27 december 2008, Zaterdags Bijvoegsel, p. 20-21.


Bestuur Haagse afdeling der Vereniging Nederland-Frankrijk.

Maatschappij der Nederlandse Letterkunde.

Bestuur Vereniging van Vrienden der Aziatische Kunst 1921-1948.

Bestuur Pulchri 1924-1934.


1894 Eervolle vermelding, Internationale Fotografie-Tentoonstelling, Arnhem.


1894 (g) Arnhem, Musis Sacrum, Internationale Fotografie-Tentoonstelling.


Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum.

Den Haag, Rijksdienst voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie.

Leiden, Prentenkabinet Universiteitsbibliotheek Leiden, bibliotheek en documentatiebestand.


Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum.

Leiden, Prentenkabinet Universiteitsbibliotheek Leiden.


De auteursrechten op het fotografisch oeuvre van Th.B. van Lelyveld berusten bij de erven te Amsterdam.