Johannes Theodorus 'Jan' Toorop is one of the most important artists of the period around 1900, together with Vincent van Gogh, Piet Mondriaan, Johannes Carolus Bernardus 'Jan' Sluijters and Leo Gestel. They all closely followed the latest international developments in the visual arts and inspired other artists. Toorop was artistically very gifted and sensitive to new ideas and changes, he quickly picked up on new styles and techniques, whereby his artistic freedom would always remain paramount. His subjects and techniques were very diverse; he painted, watercolored, etched and drew landscapes, figures, nudes and portraits. In the change of times and styles, Toorop proved to be a true modern avant-garde artist. From realist, impressionist and post-impressionist (pointillist) he developed into a symbolist painter. In his symbolist work, the desire for the spiritual and his admiration for the mysterious Indonesian nature where he was born can be found. This inspired him to use the parallel, wavy lines that he used in, for example, the design for the poster for Delft salad oil. This Art Nouveau style by Toorop is known to the general public as 'salad oil style. Toorop was socially motivated, not isolated and had friends at home and abroad. He soon became an internationally respected artist and joined many progressive artists' societies. He was the pivot in the artists' colony that arose in the seaside resort of Domburg, where he tried to catch the 'Zeeland light' with avant-garde artists such as Piet Mondriaan and Jan Sluijters.
When Toorop was thirteen years old, he left for the Netherlands, at the request of his father. Here the possibilities for a good education were much better than in Indonesia. He attended high school in the Netherlands. There Toorop was always working with a pencil and a sketchbook and his talent for drawing was quickly signaled. From 1880-1882 he studied, with the permission of his father, at the Rijksacademie in Amsterdam, where he lived in rooms with Jan Veth. Antoon Derkinderen, with whom Toorop was friends, convinced him to go to Brussels where Toorop took lessons at the Academy of Fine Arts with Jean-François Portaels. The next three years would determine Toorop's artistic education. He immersed himself in the Brussels avant-garde artist environment, which also included James Ensor and Fernand Khnopff. During a trip to London to meet the parents of his future wife Annie Hall, Toorop was impressed by the work of the impressionist James McNeill Whistler. Toorop traveled to Paris with his friend James Ensor, where he was introduced to the pointillism of Georges Seurat and Paul Signac. Toorop immediately adopted this, albeit in his own unique way and would put it into practice in Zeeland, where he spent the summer from 1897 to 1922.
Two daughters were born from the marriage between Toorop and Annie, which took place in 1886, the first of whom died early; the second daughter, Annie Caroline Pontifex, would become known as the Bergen painter Charley Toorop. Jan and Annie's marriage was not a happy one. In 1902 Toorop even insisted on a divorce, but because Annie was a Catholic she refused. A few years later, at the urging of his wife and in his own quest for mysticism and spiritualization, Toorop himself turned to the Catholic faith, a divorce became impossible.
From 1890 to 1892 and from 1899 to 1904, Toorop lived in Katwijk aan Zee, where his daughter Charley was also born. His choice of Katwijk as a residence was the result of the great attraction that the sea exerted on him. The quiet fishing village and the water inspired the painter to make some of his most important works as De Zee (Rijksmuseum Amsterdam). In 1905 the family moved to Amsterdam where Toorop became chairman of the Modern Art Circle. During this time he painted his landscapes and portraits in a more robust style. In Amsterdam Toorop also converted to the Roman Catholic faith. As a result, unlike his symbolist