Jan Toorop (1858 – 1928) is probably one of the most distinctive of the Symbolist artists; his unusual, and slightly unsettling style is instantly recognisable. This could be explained by his childhood spent in Java – many of his figures are highly reminiscent of Javanese shadow theatre puppets. Based in the Netherlands, Toorop was introduced to Symbolism during a visit to Belgium, where he was inspired by the works of Jean Delville and Fernand Khnopff. Further information on the artist’s life can be found here.
This painting takes the unusual form of a testament of love to the artists infant daughter. Michael Gibson writes that ‘the child in the highchair is the daughter of the artist. She turns her back on the past (her mother, who carries withered flowers) and lifts her arms towards the luminous and mysterious world. Modernity is signified by the telegraph post and the rail.’
This painting reminds me of the story of Christ’s last night in the garden with his disciples before his arrest.
Toorop stated that ‘the central fiancee evokes an inward, superior and beautiful desire… an ideal suffering… The fiancee on the left symbolises spiritual suffering. She is the mystic fiancee, her eyes wide with fear…” and the bride on the right with her ‘materialistic and profane expression… stands for the sensual world.’