The end of the nineteenth century was an exciting cultural period in the Netherlands. The new literary Eighties Movement, that centred round the poet and critic Willem Kloos, brought with it a wind of change. The movement was a reaction against Romanticism, which had prevailed for so long. It propagated the expression of personal emotions. Artists and musicians also took to the movement, among them the visual artist Willem Arnold Witsen (1860-1923). Aside from paintings, water colours, drawings and photographs, his legacy includes an exchange of letters with contemporaries and personal diary notes.
Willem Witsen’s letters and personal papers are in the care of various public institutions and also private persons. Most of the letters can be found at the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (Royal Library) in The Hague and the Universiteitsbibliotheek (University Library) in Amsterdam. Diaries and cash books are in the hands of the Witsenhuis (Witsen House) in Amsterdam. Willem Witsen’s extended network of correspondents included visual artists, authors, musicians, actors and many others, which makes his legacy a valuable source of information for research and a real treasure trove for everybody interested in the period between around 1880 until 1923.
Witsen' documents and photographs from a variety of Dutch heritage institutions have been brought together, and digitized. The letters, photographs and diaries are now accessible to the general public via the Memory website.