Jan Toorop /   Johannes Theodorus Toorop

Indonesia 1858 - 1928

Neo-impressionism, Symbolism, Art Nouveau

Jan Toorop
Johannes Theodorus Toorop
July 1, 2016
Alias of Jasmina Sevic, a researcher and author for Widewalls. She graduated from the Faculty of Political Science (Department for Journalism) in Belgrade in 2013.

We all know of the great names of the history of art, especially those that marked the recent times behind us. From Jean-Michel Basquiat to Pablo Picasso, there are always a number of artists that take on the limelight of the current artistic attention, becoming widely known and recognized even among those outside of art circles. However, the art world of any given time is comprised of a large number of those creating art, and to a larger or smaller degree, every artist shapes its course. Jan Toorop was one such Dutch artist who contributed to the development of Realism, Impressionism, Neo-Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, as well as Art Nouveau, yet remains known to this day only in his own country of Netherlands. Creating a unique symbolist movement, Jan Toorop is one of the less known contributors to the history of art.

Jan Toorop symbolist poster works 1900
Jan Toorop – Song of the Times, 1893

Beginnings of Jan Toorop

The duality of origin of Johannes Theodorus “Jan” Toorop took root back in his youth, as he was born in Purworejo, on the island of Java in the Dutch East Indies, Indonesia, and sent to Netherlands when he was just nine years old to continue his studies. His parents didn’t follow and consequently, he never saw them again, but he did maintain an excellent relationship with them and they supported him financially. Toroop’s education at these early years wasn’t going smoothly, but given his natural talent for drawing discovered by The Hague art collector Mr. Ahn, he was able to take on studying art instead, attending the National Academy in Amsterdam.

The event that had a great influence on Jan Toorop was the creation of the group Les Vingt (or Les xx), which he joined a year after his initial attempt to become a member. The group was composed of primarily Belgian artists trying to emphasize the new developments in Belgian art, but they started accepting foreign painters into the fold as well later on. The group’s social circles provided a great source of new contacts for Toorop, influencing him when it comes to both the visual arts and music. Working in various fields at this point, Jan Toorop was implementing Realism, Impressionism, Neo-Impressionism, and Post-Impressionism into his practice.

Les Vingt group had a great influence on Javanese-born artist Jan Toorop

Dutch Jan Toorop - Wall decoration for Beurs van Berlage Cafe Jan Toorop english dutch poster
Jan Toorop – Wall decoration for Beurs van Berlage Cafe

Myriad of Styles

Jan Toorop’s style has changed on multiple occasions during his career, and it would often happen in a rapid succession from one to the other. Even the interpretations he gave of his own works would vary in different periods, depending on his given state of mind. Other creatives had a great influence on his choice of style, and after his association with Les Vingt, it was the Impressionists of Paris that made an impression on Toorop. Some of the representatives of this influence are the portrait of Annie Hall (1885) and Trio Fleuri (1885-1886), and even in the latter one can traces of Symbolism be seen.

On a different occasion, Toorop turned towards the Middle Ages, influenced by the propaganda for the Arts and Crafts movement during his visit to the Morris’ Kelmscott Press. This fascination can also be seen later on in his career as he produced stained-glass windows. His relocation to The Hague had him make yet another switch in his style, and given that the city was the one most receptive to Art Nouveau, it comes as no surprise that Toorop would adopt it. It was, however, the Symbolism that had Toroop truly stand out, forming it in a unique and uncanny way.

Toorop adopted Art Nouveau after his relocation to the Dutch city of The Hague

Jan Toorop - Cover for God en Goden by Louis Couperus, 1903 / Cover for Psyche by Louis Couperus, 1898 brussels amsterdam museum Jan Toorop works life james poster
Left: Jan Toorop – Cover for God en Goden by Louis Couperus, 1903 / Right: Cover for Psyche by Louis Couperus, 1898

A Unique Symbolist

It was his interest in Gesammtkunst that had Toorop pulled into the world of Symbolism, and the contacts that he maintained within the art scene of the time definitely helped push him in that direction. His piece Temptation made in 1887, though stylistically Pointillist, was anticipating his future Symbolism-centered painitngs, and Toorop would return to the subject on multiple occasions throughout the rest of his career. Recollecting the memories of childhood years spent on the island of Java, he has developed his style based on the motifs of this Indonesian area, using dynamic and unpredictable lines, highly stylized willowy figures, and curvilinear designs. In line with his constant search for a new creative territory to explore within painting, Jan Toorop produced expressive drawings of Katwijk fishermen even during his Symbolism-based period. Taking yet another new path, his entrance into the 20th century was marked by a move to Nijmegen and its Catholic circles.

Toorop produced expressive drawings of Katwijk fishermen even during his Symbolism-based period

Jan Toorop - Cover for A Dream by Henri Borel, 1899 (Left) / Cover for Babel by Louis Couperus, 1901 (Right) paintings works english brussels museum life james english delft Jan Toorop paintings poster
Left: Jan Toorop – Cover for A Dream by Henri Borel, 1899 / Right: Jan Toorop – Cover for Babel by Louis Couperus, 1901

Turning to Religion

1908 was the year of an important decision for Jan Toorop: his move to the center of Dutch Catholicism, Nijmegen, ended up influencing his work for the rest of his career. The overture for his move was made in the preceding years, as he joined a circle of Catholic creatives who called themselves De Violier. Having converted to Catholicism, the latter years of his life and career were focused on making pieces that correlated to faith, influencing his painting in a sense that he made more rigid, less inspired lines, and had made stained-glass windows.

Jan Toorop died in 1928 in The Hague, Netherlands, leaving behind an extensive body of work in various different directions. From his well known Delft Salad Oil to his work being labeled as “pictures of saints,” there is no doubt that Toorop was influenced by and had influenced a great number of other creatives not just in Netherlands but far abroad. Although his work does not truly belong to any single movement, Toorop has left a strong mark on the world of art and its representatives, entering artistic history. His works have been exhibited in such galleries and museums as Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, Netherlands; Hunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK; Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands; Tate Britain, London, UK; and Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany, to name a few.

Featured image: Jan Toorop – portrait, photo via wikipedia.org
All other photos via wikiart.org

YearExhibition TitleMuseum/GallerySolo/Group
2016Jan TooropGemeentemuseum, The Hague, NetherlandsSolo
2015Van Gogh & Co: Criss-crossing the collectionKroller-Muller Museum, Otterlo, NetherlandsGroup
2015Colour UnleashedGemeentemuseum, The Hague, NetherlandsGroup
2013Typically DutchRijksmuseum Amsterdam Schiphol, Amsterdam, NetherlandsGroup
2013Immortalized, 1913-2013. In the footsteps of Frans HalsDe Hallen, Haarlem, NetherlandsGroup
2013Holland on Paper: The Age of Art NouveauMuseum of Fine Arts, Back Bay, Bostan, USAGroup
2013Dreams and Echoes: Drawings and Sculpture in the David and Celia Hilliard CollectionThe Art Institute of Chicago, Loop, Chicago, IL, USAGroup
2013Duilio Cambellotti, Dal Palatino al Parnaso: Le Romanae Fabulae e l’Epos grecoSperone Westwater, Lower East Side, New York, NY, USAGroup
2012The Veendorp CollectionThe Groninger Museum, Groningen, NetherlandsGroup
2010Paper Dreams: Drawings and Prints 1850-1935Rijksmuseum Twenthe, Enschede, NetherlandsGroup
2010Turn of the Century Posters: Toulouse-Lautrec and OthersKrannert Art Museum and Kinkead Pavilion, Champaign, USAGroup
2009Golden Age: Highlights of Dutch Graphic Design 1890 - 1990Moravian Gallery, Brno, Czech RepublicGroup
2008XXth CenturyGemeentemuseum, The Hague, NetherlandsSolo
2008Georges Seurat, Paul Signac and the Neo-ImpressionistsPalazzo Reale, Milan, ItalyGroup
2007Toorop in Vienna: inspiring KlimtGemeentemuseum, The Hague, NetherlandsGroup
2005Helene's FavoritesKroller Muller Museum, Otterlo, NetherlandsGroup
2005European Works on Paper: Symbolism and Art NouveauMead Art Museum, Amherst, Massachusetts, USAGroup
20031890s WomenHunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UKGroup
1998The Age of Rossetti, Burne-Jones and Watts: Symbolism in Britain 1860-1910Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, NetherlandsGroup
1998The Age of Rossetti, Burne-Jones and Watts: Symbolism in Britain 1860-1910Haus der Kunst, Munich, GermanyGroup
1998The Age of Rossetti, Burne-Jones and Watts: Symbolism in Britain 1860-1910Tate Britain, London, UKGroup
1984Peintres de l'AmeLouise Whitford Gallery (Whitford and Hughes), London, UKGroup
1980Fin De SiecleLouise Whitford Gallery (Whitford and Hughes), London, UKGroup
1973SymbolismGallery Michael Hasenclever, Munich, GermanyGroup
1973Idealistes et SymbolistesGalerie J.C. Gaubert, Paris, FranceGroup
1970Symbolists 1860-1925Piccadilly Gallery, London, UKGroup
1969The Sacred and Profane in Symbolist ArtArt Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Ontario, CanadaGroup