Jan Toorop, in full Johannes Theodorus Toorop, was one of the artists who influenced the development of Dutch modern art around 1900. Toorop was artistically very gifted and sensitive to new ideas and changes, picked up new styles and techniques quickly, whereby his artistic freedom would always remain paramount. His subjects and techniques were diverse; he painted, watercolors, etched and drew landscapes, figures, nudes and portraits. In the different styles he used, Toorop showed himself to be a true avant-garde artist, more of an example than a follower, always looking for a new challenge. His work reflects numerous styles and movements: Impressionism, Neo-Impressionism (Pointillism), Jugendstil and Symbolism. In symbolism, the movement that would be most important to Toorop, he could best express his soul stirrings. In his symbolist work from the 1990s, the artist still saw symbolism of faith as a pursuit of spiritualization - the higher, the pure and the beautiful. After his conversion to the Roman Catholic faith in 1905, he was mainly religiously inspired in his symbolic representations. Toorop was socially engaged, did not isolate himself and had friends at home and abroad. Among these were, besides painters, also poets and writers. He also found affiliation with many progressive artists' societies and was highly respected internationally. In the Netherlands he was the linchpin in the artists' colony that arose in the seaside town of Domburg and where he tried to create 'Zeeland light' with avant-garde artists such as Piet Mondrian, Jan Sluijters, Mies Elout-Drabbe, Maurice and Sarika Gòth and Ferdinand Hart Nibbrig. to catch.
Toorop was born in 1858 in Poerworedjo in the Dutch East Indies. When he was thirteen years old he left for the Netherlands, where the possibilities for a good education were much better than in Indonesia, and went on to secondary school. There he was always busy with pencil and a sketchbook and his talent for drawing was soon spotted. From 1880 to 1882 he studied at the Rijksacademie in Amsterdam, where he lived in rooms with Jan Veth. Antoon Derkinderen, with whom Toorop was friends, persuaded him to accompany him to Brussels, where Toorop took lessons with Jean-François Portaels at the Academy of Fine Arts. In Brussels, the art climate was very different from that in Amsterdam and the years in Brussels would determine Toorop's artist training. He immersed himself in the Brussels avant-garde artistic environment, which also included James Ensor and Fernand Khnopff, and was the only Dutchman admitted to the extremely progressive art circle Les Vingt. Founded in 1884, this avant-garde association soon became a center of art, culture, literature and music for the whole of Europe and held exhibitions, inviting foreign artists such as the French painters Toulouse Lautrec and Gauguin. Toorop, as the only Dutch member, made important contacts between Dutch and Belgian artists. On a second stay in England, to meet the parents of his future wife Annie Hall, Toorop visited James Whistler, who was influenced by Gustave Courbet's proletarian subjects. In England, Toorop also met William Morris, under whose leadership the Arts and Crafts Movement was founded in 1886, the movement that put handicrafts above machine production. Toorop adopted his ideas and would mainly apply them in his monumental work. With his friend James Ensor, Toorop moved to Paris in 1887, where he came into contact with the work of the pointillists Georges Seurat and Paul Signac. Toorop took over pointillism almost immediately, albeit in its own way, and would practice this frequently, especially in Domburg, where he would come every summer from 1897 to 1922.
From the marriage between Toorop and Annie Hall, which took place in 1886, two daughters were born, the first of whom died early; the second daughter, Annie Caroline Pontifex, would become known as the Bergen painter Charley Toorop. Toorop 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. When a few years later, at the insistence of his wife and in his own quest for mysticism and spiritualization, Toorop himself converted to the Catholic faith and was baptized together with his daughter, divorce became impossible.
In 1890 Toorop settled permanently in the Netherlands, first in Katwijk aan Zee, later in The Hague. His choice for Katwijk as his place of residence was the result of the great attraction that the sea exerted on him, the people who belonged to the sea and also the silence in the fishing village. They inspired the painter to create some of his most important works such as De Zee (Rijksmuseum Amsterdam). A new period dawned. Toorop maintained close contacts with poets and writers of De Nieuwe Gids and the artistic life that revolved around the literary movement of Eighty and Ninety and was a striking figure in this environment with his dark, oriental appearance and engaging character. He became friends with Albert Verwey, whose house in Noordwijk was a meeting place for artists and with writers such as Lodewijk van Deyssel and Frederik van Eeden. Throughout his life, Toorop maintained good relations with both Dutch and foreign artists. On his initiative, a Van Gogh exhibition was held in The Hague in 1892. He also invited the poet Paul Verlaine and the French Rosicrucian Sar Péladan to the Netherlands for a number of lectures. Toorop was deeply impressed by both of them and they inspired him to create his first symbolic performances. Toorop became fascinated by the seductive, femme-fatale, symbol of feminine sensuality, which destroys men. They were drawn, together with innocent women, first in oil paint, later in pencil and chalk against a backdrop of haunted gardens with ponds and weeping willows with falling branches like women's hair. Death was symbolized in graveyards and skulls. In the heyday of Symbolism, Toorop's style was strongly influenced by memories of his youth in Java with its mysterious nature and exotic vegetation, motifs from Javanese woodcarving, Japanese and Chinese fabrics and prints by the Japanese Hokusai.
After 1894 Toorop was mainly concerned with the ideals of a better world. He made many lithographs and drawings of noble women, for which his wife Annie and her sister Janet were models. His poster for the Delftsche-Slaolie was also created during this time, which became known as an example of Jugendstil and he received many commissions for posters and book covers.
From 1900 onwards, Toorop increasingly worked in a sleek geometric style and his figures became more realistic in their powerful outline. He also received more and more commissions for monumental work for De Beurs van Berlage, among others. During the periods in which he stayed in Domburg, he made dune landscapes and seascapes, again using pointillist technique.
After living in The Hague for a while, Toorop moved to Nijmegen in 1908, where he would make much of his religious work. He received various assignments from the Roman Catholic Church. From portraits of fathers, priests and bishops, religious books, posters and stained glass windows to a Stations of the Cross. In Nijmegen, Toorop met the painter and literary expert Miek Janssen, whose collection of poems he illustrated. She was a deeply religious Catholic, had a strong connection with Toorop's sense of mysticism and published extensively about him.
Because of his increasing physical discomfort, he had been suffering from paralysis symptoms in his legs for years and had pain every day, Toorop returned to The Hague in 1916, where Miek took care of him and supported him with her friendship, until his death in 1928.
The number of exhibitions in which Toorop participated cannot be counted, both nationally and internationally. His work reflects numerous styles and movements: Impressionism, Neo-Impressionism, Jugendstil, Symbolism. His work as a draftsman and graphic artist is especially praised for the quality to characterize the characteristics of his models. Victorine Hefting in 'Jan Toorop - an acquaintance' writes: 'That is the striking and wonderful thing about Toorop, that he could make everything he put on paper or canvas, even when that seems theoretically impossible, into a whole that fascinates, intrigues and always suggests affinities with parts of figure or form. '
Toorop has always remained open to change and innovation. His work has undergone many changes in style, technique and vision throughout his life. However, this was never to the detriment of his artistry. He was fascinated by many insights and wanted to apply them all in his art. A great strength drove him to keep everything he made at a high level and all his work testified to unity and harmony. It was thanks to his tremendous talent and his vibrant mind that he could muster this.