Artist – Charley Toorop

Maaltijd der vrienden

Maaltijd der vrienden, 1933, at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam

When I find myself inadvertently and repeatedly being drawn to one artist then I take notice. As I have visited many different museums during my stay in Holland, I have repeatedly taken photos of paintings by the Dutch artist, Charley Toorop. Her first name initially conjured the image of a male artist, until I happened upon Zelfportret met hoed en voile, 1938 (Self-portrait with Hat and Voile) at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, and happily realized that she was a woman. I fell for her perhaps because her slightly self-conscious, staring face with eyes and nose drawn slightly too large reminded me of my own self-portraits.


Early self-portrait by Jan Toorop, currently at Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Charley was the only child of another well-known, Dutch-Indonesian Symbolist artist, Jan Toorop, which is a curious thing to me, how one’s personality is influenced by being taught an art form by a parent. Her son and grandson also made a living as artists. Early in her career she was part of Het Signaal (The Signal), a movement defined by expressionism, with vibrant colours, strong contrast and exaggerated lines.


Self-portrait with 3 children, 1929.

She developed a style of moral realism based on her avant-garde views in painting portraits of the working class, as well as her 18 self-portraits.

charley toorop 1938

Self-portrait with Hat and Voile, 1938



Self-portrait, 1953


charley toorop 1940

Self-portrait, 1940



Self-portrait, 1928

I find self-portraits fascinating, not self-indulgent nor narcissistic, generally a means for self-realization or as a skill study. Unlike other portraits, you will also never worry about the sitter complaining that the image is not reflective of them, or flattering. Charley Toorop was able to turn the canvas on herself and portray her own moral realism, putting her changing face into the spotlight and not hiding from the seemingly unattractive lines and shadows of age.

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