Witsen, Willem

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Witsen, Willem Gender: M
Willem Arnoldus Witsen
born on 13 August 1860 at 23:00 (= 11:00 PM )
Place Amsterdam, Netherlands, 52n22, 4e54
Timezone LST m4e53 (is standard time)
Data source
BC/BR in hand
Rodden Rating AA
Collector: Schepel
Astrology data s_su.18.gif s_leocol.18.gif 21°19' s_mo.18.gif s_cancol.18.gif 10°42 Asc.s_gemcol.18.gif 10°58'

Willem Witsen


Dutch impressionistic painter, etcher, photographer and writer.

Willem Witsen was the son of Jonas Jan Witsen (1819-1901) and Jacoba Elizabeth Bonekamp (1826-1873). The Witsen's were a rich family of "regenten", the rulers of the Dutch republic.

He studied at the Royal Academy of Visual Arts at Amsterdam. He became a member of art circles like Sint Lucas and Arti et Amicitiae. He painted in an impressionistic style, but he also made gloomy winter landscapes. Because of his dreary weather paintings his first exhibition (1895) was not a success. But as he was born rich, he could permit himself to travel around the world, photograph and paint what he liked and invite writers, poets and painters to stay at his now monumental "Het Witsenhuis" in Amsterdam.

He belonged the group of "Tachtigers", an artistic movement between 1880 and 1894, that was partly a reaction against the moralistic aspects of the Romantic movement, partly a revival of it. Like the Romantics they were individualistic and loved nature, but "l'art pour l'art" was their credo. The painters George Hendrik Breitner, Isaac Israëls, Eduard Karsen and Jan Veth and the writers Lodewijk van Deyssel, Anthony Mauve, Albert Verwey, Willem Kloos, Hein Boeken and Herman Gorter belonged to his friends. He supported their illustrated literary and cultural journal "De Nieuwe gids" (The New Guide, 1885-1943) financially and with literary contributions as an art critic. The New Guide was a reaction to the in their eyes moralistic and old fashioned literary periodical "De Gids" (The Guide, 1873-now )that was founded by the romantic writer Johannes Potgieter (1808-1875). The moralistic "De Gids" rejected their for esthetics's alone contributions.

In 1895 and 1897 his work was exposed at the Venice Biennale.

In 1897 he won a Gold Medal on the Exposition Universelle (World's Fair)in Paris. In the Jury report we read about him and his friend the portrait painter Jan Veth: "Jan Veth is a psychologist, in spite of his hard technique, which recalls that of the old German masters ; not unlike is Haverman, both of them excelling in portraits; Van der Maarel and Willem Witsen are more unquiet, more poetical, in their constant search for the illusive."

He died on 13 April 1932 in Amsterdam, being 71 years old.


On 4 May 1893 he married Elisabeth van Vloten at Haarlem. The couple were divorced in the year 1902.

In 1907 he married the writer Augusta Maria Schorr (b. 1 January 1875- 13 April 1943).

Since January 1891 he lived in the former atelier of his friend George Breitner (1857-1923). After her death his widow Witsen Scorr donated the house to the state. Now being a state museum, "Het Witsenhuis" (Oosterpark 82, Amsterdam) has a Verlaine room where Paul Verlaine stayed around 1892. Prominent writers like Marga Minco also lived here.

Much of his correspondences with famous contemporary artists, pictures of his paintings and etchings and photographs were digitalized and constitute part of the online history project "Het geheugen van Nederland" (The memory of the Netherlands). It is found at http://www.geheugenvannederland.nl and one can search for his name to see them.

Link to Wikipidia biography


  • associate relationship with Looy, Jac. van (born 13 September 1855). Notes: Tachtigers, they corresponded a lot, see Dbnl for letters
  • associate relationship with Veth, Jan (born 18 May 1864). Notes: Their letters can be found in DBNL
  • friend relationship with Boeken, Hein (born 2 December 1861)
  • friend relationship with Gorter, Herman (born 26 November 1864). Notes: "Tachtigers", De Nieuwe Gids


  • Relationship : Marriage 4 May 1893 in Haarlem (Elisabeth van Vloten)
    chart Placidus Equal_H.
  • Work : Published/ Exhibited/ Released 1895 in Haarlem (1st exhibition)
  • Work : Prize 15 April 1900 in Paris (Gold Medal on the Exposition Universelle)
    chart Placidus Equal_H.
  • Death by Disease 13 April 1932 in Amsterdam (Bronchitis/pneumonia)
    chart Placidus Equal_H.

Source Notes

Schepel quotes Amsterdam Municipal Archive for 23h00 LMT on 13081860 in Sterrentijd 4 No. 40.


  • Vocation : Art : Art critic
  • Vocation : Art : Fine art artist (impressionist painter , etcher)