Works by Willem Witsen

The versatile artist Willem Witsen (1860-1923) was friends with many leading figures from cultural and literary life. He not only left a varied oeuvre, but also extensive correspondence, among others with painters and literators.

Trees in snow, Willem Witsen
black chalk, brush in watercolor colors
Bequest from Mrs. A.E. Reich-Hohwü

Witsen often portrayed calm urban landscapes as well as agricultural scenes. He also created portraits and photographs of prominent figures of the Amsterdam art world. Besides painting and photography, Witsen was the founder of the Nederlandse Etsclub (Dutch Etching Club).

Jar with fluff flowers, Willem Witsen
oil on canvas
bequest from Mr A. van Wezel, Amsterdam

Witsen belonged to the Tachtigers, a group of young artists who proclaimed the principle of l’art pour l’art. 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.

Witsen’s works are distinguishable from those of a contemporary European style, Impressionism. Their atmosphere is melancholy, depicting austere, wintery, dark scenes.

De Oude Waal te Amsterdam, pencil, brush in watercolor colors, Willem Witsen

His best works include serene views on Amsterdams, like those of the Herengracht and Leidsegracht, “Turfschepen in de Oude Schans” and “Gezicht op de oude Waal”. In 1911 Witsen purchased a barge in order to work from a water-level standpoint.

Forest path in Ewijkshoeve, Willem Witsen
etching / aquatint / roulette / plate tone on paper

His original photographs show his experience in etching because of his close attention to perspective, composition and working in nuances of black and white.

Witsen’s correspondence which is important in both literary and art historical respect can be read on the site of the DBNL (a database of Dutch literature).

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