The son of Charley Toorop, Edgar Fernhout, grew up in Amsterdam and Bergen surrounded by artists. At the age of 16 he began to paint under the tutelage of his mother, whose influence is evident in his early landscapes, still lifes and portraits. In 1932 he set up in Amsterdam, marrying Rachel Pellekaan two years later, then living in Alassio in Italy for three years and subsequently in Bergen for a period. Over time, Fernhout developed a preference for painting landscapes which spurred him to try increasingly intense experiments with light. His compositions were steadily pared down to emphasise brushstrokes and paint, finally culminating in the abstract grid-like patterns of colour that characterise his work as from the 1960s.