Johannes Theodorus Toorop was born on 20 December 1858 in
Purworejo on the island of Java in the Dutch East Indies
(present-day Indonesia). His father was Christoffel
Theodorus Toorop, a civil servant, and his mother was Maria
Magdalena Cooke. He was the third of five children and lived
on the island of Bangka near Sumatra until he was nine years
old. He was then sent to school in Batavia on Java.
In 1869 he left Indonesia for
the Netherlands, where he studied in Delft and Amsterdam. In
1880 he became a student at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam.
From 1882 to 1886 he lived in Brussels where he joined Les
XX (Les Vingts), a group of artists centred on James Ensor.
Toorop worked in various styles during these years, such as
Realism, Impressionism Neo-Impressionism and
After his marriage to an Annie Hall, a British woman, in
1886, Toorop alternated his time between The Hague, England
and Brussels, and after 1890 also the Dutch seaside town of
Katwijk aan Zee. During this period he developed his unique
Symbolist style, with dynamic, unpredictable lines based on
Javanese motifs, highly stylised willowy figures, and
In the late 19th century (in 1897) Toorop lived for 20 years
in a small house on the market in the seaside town Domburg,
Walcheren, Zeeland. He worked with a group of fellow
artists, including Marinus Zwart and Piet Mondrian. There
was no joint endeavor or common style among them. Each
followed his individual personality, but they sought their
inspiration in "the Zeeland Light", in the dunes, forests,
beaches and the characteristic Zeeland population. Toorop
was the center of this group.
Thereafter he turned to Art
Nouveau styles, in which a similar play of lines is used for
decorative purposes, without any apparent symbolic meaning.
In 1905, he converted to Catholicism and began producing
religious works. He also created book illustrations,
posters, and stained glass designs.
Throughout his life Toorop
also produced portraits, in sketch format and as paintings,
which range in style from highly realistic to
Toorop died on 3 March 1928
in The Hague in the Netherlands. His daughter Charley Toorop
(1891–1955) was also a painter, as was his grandson Edgar
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