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.
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.
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.
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.