Anna Witsen timeline

1855 – 1860
Anna Agnes Witsen was born on February 3rd, 1855 in Amsterdam. On August 13, 1860 brother Willem Witsen was born.

1860 – 1880
In 1867 the family moves from Prinsengracht 530 to Westeinde 28, the corner house with the Nicolaas Witsenkade. In 1873 their mother died.

1880 – 1884
The Ewijkshoeve Estate has been the home of the Witsen family since 1881: father, daughters Anna and Cobi, Willem (the youngest) and Cobi’s close friend Coba Muller who no longer had any family (and later became Willem Bastiaan Tholens wife). From 1883.08.21 to 1884.03.31 Anna was admitted to the ‘Geneeskundig Gesticht voor Krankzinnigen Utrecht’ (Institute for the Insane).

1884 – 1888
From 1884 tot 1887 brother Willem lives on Ewijckshoeve. By then he was a painter, etcher and photographer associated with the Amsterdam Impressionism movement. Witsen belonged to the Tachtigers, a group of young artists who proclaimed the principle of l’art pour l’art Art for art’s sake. The group influenced Dutch artistic and political life during the 1890s. Witsen wrote under a pseudonym in the literary magazine De Nieuwe Gids, which he also supported financially. His circle of friends included the painters George Hendrik Breitner, Isaac Israëls, and Jan Veth and the writers Lodewijk van Deyssel, Albert Verwey, Willem Kloos, and Herman Gorter. In 1885 Willem Witsen invited Willem Bastiaan Tholen to Ewijkshoeve, where their contemporaries, George Hendrik Breitner and Anton Mauve were frequent guests. Tholen started working here, and also Piet Meiners had his atelier here.

+/- 1885, photographer unknown

To his friend Jan Veth Willem wrote about Ewijkshoeve: ‘k Ben hier heerlijk aan ‘t werk – de dagen vliegen om met ‘n onrustbarende snelheid. Niets dan onrust. Uitscheiden wanneer je goed op weg komt; inspannen om te maken wat er niet in wil; dan vol vertrouwen, dan weer moedeloos – zonder moed, zonder geloof vloekende tegen eigen onmacht..’ / I am wonderful at work here – the days fly by at a worrying speed. Nothing but unrest. Stop when you are well on your way; make an effort to make what is not in there; then confidently, then despondently – without courage, swearing without faith against one’s own powerlessness.

In 1886 Anna is not well, according to letters written to Willem.

1888 – 1889
It must have been January to September 1888 that Anna was again admitted to the Insane Hospital, although I couldn’t find any evidence for that. From mid-October 1888 Anna goes to Paris for a month. It seems to be better with her again. She even plans to perform again. On November 26 at 8 AM, Anna sings songs by Schumann and Brahms in the Odéon in Amsterdam, accompanied by the man she loves in silence, Julius Röntgen. The review in the Handelsblad reads: “(••)Mej. Anna Witsen is minder bekend. Wel liet zij zich voor enige jaren hier ter stede horen doch in betrekkelijk beperkte kring. / (••) Ms. Anna Witsen is less well-known. You could hear her here in town for some time, but in a relatively limited circle. Cobi and dad were attending the concert, but brother Willem was not.

March 5, 1889
In the early morning of this cold winterday in the gloomy month of March Anna decided to drown herself in the pond behind the house. Her death inspired Herman Gorter to write his beautiful poem ‘In den zwarten nacht is een mensch aangetreden’.