CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Surtout pas des principes! Charley Toorop

Exhibition: 27 September 2008 - 1 February 2009

Museum press release, August 2008

A total of 120 works have been gathered for the Charley Toorop (1891-1955) retrospective, including almost all her self-portraits. The exhibition ‘Surtout pas des principes! Charley Toorop’ has been put together by Marja Bosma, who has also written a book of the same name about the life and work of one of the foremost female Dutch artists of the 20th century.

Both the exhibition and the book contain a wealth of information about Charley Toorop, clarifying associations and highlighting influences, making it easier to see how key works from her oeuvre fit into her larger body of work. This large-scale retrospective clearly highlights Toorop’s importance for Dutch art.
For Charley Toorop, painting was the ultimate form of self-realisation, making her work both unavoidable and imposing. A perfect example of this is the self-portrait from 1928 that was recently acquired by Museum Boijmans van Beuningen.

Confrontational realism

Charley Toorop was the daughter of the symbolist Jan Toorop, who was one of the foremost artists in the Netherlands during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His ‘salad oil’ style is a term that remains in use even today. Toorop prepared his only child for life as an artist and despite being predestined to take up music, she chose instead to follow in her father’s footsteps. Rather than attending art school, she learned the trade from him. At an early age, she was part of ‘Het Signaal’, a predecessor of the Bergense School. Her work in those days was expressionistic in nature, featuring vibrant colours and sweeping brush strokes, which she combined with darker undertones and dissonant colours. A mystical experience of nature underpinned this work, which was representative of the Bergense School from the outset.
After an unsuccessful marriage to Henk Fernhout, with whom she had three children, she established herself in a house built specially for her in Bergen called ‘De Vlerken’, where she worked steadily on her painting career. Painting always occupied the primary position in her life. She travelled regularly, particularly to France. She also stayed regularly in Brussels. Her circle of friends was made up principally of prominent artists and intellectuals including the poets Adriaan Roland Holst and Henny Marsman, painter Piet Mondriaan, sculptor John Rädecker, architects Rietveld and Oud and the anarchist thinker Arthur Lehning.

Toorop’s social and political commitment was the catalyst for her to develop her work into a style of confrontational realism, where she presented her subjects head on. This applies not only to her remarkable self-portraits in which she penetrates the viewer with her steely gaze, but also to her portraits of farmers, labourers and fishermen.


Vooral geen principes! Charley Toorop
Marja Bosma
Catalogue of an exhibition that took place in 2008-09 in Rotterdam (Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen)
192 pp., 26 x 21 cm., hardcover
Rotterdam (Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen) 2008
ISBN-13: 978-90-6918-232-2


Prince Bernhard Cultural Foundation
K.F. Hein Fund