About Willem Witsen

Willem Witsen (13 August 1860, Amsterdam – 13 April 1923, Amsterdam) was a Dutch painter and photographer associated with the Amsterdam Impressionism movement. He was the youngest and sixth child in a prosperous family, whose paternal roots go back to the well-known Amsterdam regent and mayor line. He was the brother of Anna Witsen.

Ink on paper

Witsen’s work often portrayed calm urban landscapes as well as agricultural scenes. He also created portraits and photographs of prominent figures of the Amsterdam art world. In Witsens formative years his family stayed in their country house in Lage Vuursche. Thanks to his generosity this became the gathering place for young and talented artists like musicians, painters, writers. It formed the backdrop of the ‘Tachtigers‘ (“Eightiers”), otherwise known as the Movement of Eighty (Dutch: Beweging van Tachtig). They were a radical and influential group of writers who interacted and worked together in Amsterdam in the 1880s, many of whom are still widely read today.

Willem Kloos and friends, photo: Willem Witsen

The Tachtigers were so named simply because they became active around the year 1880. The movement was based on revolt against what the Tachtigers perceived as the formalistic and overly wrought style of mainstream literature in their day, particularly as favored by the predominant literary journal in Amsterdam, De Gids (The Guide). The Tachtigers instead insisted that style must match content, and that intimate and visceral emotions can only be expressed using an intimate and visceral writing style. For guidance in this effort, they tended to draw inspiration from Shakespeare, and from the then recent Impressionist painters and Naturalist writers.

Willem Witsen, photo: unknown

Artists like Willem Bastiaan Tholen and Piet Meiners worked on Ewijkshoeve as well. Many of their works are originated there. Maybe due to family circumstances Willem left Ewijkshoeve around 1886/1887 to go back to Amsterdam and other places. With his first wife Betsy van Vloten Willem gets 3 sons. In 1902 their marriage the marriage has been dissolved and in 1907 Willem marries his new wife Augusta Maria Schorr. The following years they travel a lot while they live at the Oosterpark 82 in Amsterdam.

Willem dies in a hospital in Amsterdam from an old ailment, bronchitis, aged 63 years old.

Willem Witsen on his deathbed, photo: Julius Heinrich Hisgen, 1923

[+] Stichting Willem Witsen
[+] Wikipedia Willem Witsen
[+] Rijksmuseum Willem Witsen
[+] dbnl – Volledige briefwisseling Willem Witsen transcripties
[+] Het Geheugen van Nederland – transcripties + oorspronkelijke brieven