The living room realism of Klazina Bakker

In this series on colourful figures from artistic and cultural life, Curator of Modern Art Ton Geerts writes about Klazina Bakker (1875-1966) and The Knock on the Door (De klop op de deur). The collection of the RKD contains several photographs dating back to the twenties of the previous century, in which Klazina Bakker has been captured reading.

Photographic portraits

The RKD has in its care an extensive collection of photographic portraits of famous and less-famous artists, but also of ordinary people, photographed by well-known and lesser-known photographers. These portraits, which are depicted and described in the RKDimages database, are not only a valuable resource for art historians and other researchers, they are also quite simply a joy to behold.

One of these portraits shows a seated woman reading in a homely atmosphere. In front of her is a small table with a vase holding flowers, on the wall a modestly sized painting in a sturdy gilt frame. The photo was probably taken in the twenties, but everything about it exudes a nineteenth-century atmosphere. The photographer has captured the woman beautifully, in that quiet reading posture, with her mild, subdued smile. Her name is Klazina Bakker and she was in all likelihood portrayed by Francis Kramer (1978-1965), although this has never been fully ascertained.

1. Francis Kramer (?), Portrait of Klazina Bakker, 1920-1930, photo on cardboard, collection RKD
2. Isaac Israels, Portrait of Klazina Bakker, 1925, watercolour, current location unknown

Klazina Bakker

Klazina Bakker probably does not ring a bell, but the description of this photo says she married one Henricus Anthonius J. Boudier on 14 August 1902. This should ring a bell: after her marriage, Klazina Bakker went by the name of Ina Boudier-Bakker. Literary history may have forgotten her, for decades she enjoyed huge popularity with the general public as the author of more than 30 novels and short stories. Even today her name is still known, albeit primarily as the namesake of streets and squares. Literary historians nowadays classify her work as 'living room realism' and assign it to the genre of the 'psychological ladies' novel'.

On closer examination, photographer Francis Kramer proves to be hardly an unknown either: his name and photos occur quite frequently in the RKD's collection. The photographs mostly depict the beau monde and the aristocracy. He also took photos of landscapes and cityscapes in Utrecht, besides working as a court photographer and a photography teacher.

The Knock on the Door (De klop op de deur)

Despite the fact that Boudier-Bakker is no longer considered part of the Dutch literary canon, her most famous novel, The Knock on the Door (1930), has seen more than 20 reprints, most recently in 2019. Between 29 September 1970 and 5 January 1971, the 15-episode tv-series of the same name was aired by the KRO broadcasting corporation, which is indicative of her popularity back then, 40 years after the novel's publication. In her own time she was a celebrity and a crowd favourite, but with the younger generation of literary critics she was already losing favour. The Knock on the Door would forever be haunted by a contemporary's would-be review of the novel, with the satirically intended title: 'Don't open it!'

1. Isaac Israels, Portrait of Klazina Bakker, 1925, oil painting on canvas, Literatuurmuseum, Den Haag
2. Ina Boudier-Bakker, The Knock on the Door, Amsterdam 1930
3. Scene from the tv-series The Knock on the Door, 1970, on the right Mieke Bos and on the left Dore Smit

Modern times

The novel tells the story of an Amsterdam family. For sixty years the reader follows this family in their ever-changing world, venturing from the nineteenth into the twentieth century. During this journey the reader witnesses the arrival of the motor car, the bicycle, new industrial applications, socialism, women's liberation and the labour movement, against the backdrop of a new, vibrant world of art, music (the completion and opening of the Concertgebouw), dance and theatre. Klazina also grew up in the Weteringschans in Amsterdam, which at the time still offered views of cows and meadows, and where, ultimately, the Rijksmuseum and Amsterdam-Zuid would arise.

Isaac Israels

This was also the world of that other successful artist: Isaac Israels, who, like no other, immortalized modern city life. Israels too portrayed Klazina, twice in fact, both occasions in 1925. Israels renders her as somewhat serious, nothing like the sophisticated type he usually painted. Rumour had it that he was rather enamoured of her. But that happened to him quite a bit, or so another rumour ran.