The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Johannes Theodorus Toorop, 1858-1928

Nationality: Javanese/British
Date of Birth: 1858.12.20
Place of Birth: Poerworedjo (Java)
Date of Death: 1928.03.03
Place of Death: The Hague, Holland


Johannes Theodorus Toorop was a painter and printmaker. He was born to a Javanese father and a mother of British descent.


Johannes Theodorus Toorop moved to Amsterdam to study painting and etching, before receiving a grant to study in Brussels. Here he came into contact with Les Vingt group and was invited to join the group in 1885, where he became best known for his Symbolist works. He had a great interest in English art, and actually lived in London from 1886 when he married an English-Scottish girl, until 1899. During this time, his work was published in The Studio.

He met Whistler in England in 1886, possibly through Vosmaer, or perhaps Mrs M. M. Elout- Rose, with whose son-in-law both Whistler and Toorop were friends. He felt a great affinity with Whistler, both as a man and artist; both used soft colours executed with great delicacy, and used white with particular sensitivity. The two men also shared great respect for Fantin-Latour. Whistler exhibited his Venice Etchings and Arrangement in Brown and Black: Portrait of Miss Rosa Corder (YMSM 203) in the first Les Vingt annual exhibition in 1884. He offered Arrangement in Black: Portrait of Señor Pablo de Sarasate (YMSM 315) to the group for their 1886 exhibition, even before offering it to the Paris Salon, showing his deep admiration for the group. However, Whistler was put forward for membership and rejected from the group, both in 1886 and 1888.

Although Toorop's English ties with William Morris and the Pre- Raphaelites are emphasized in biographies, Les Vingt's English ties seemed to diminish as the group secretary, Octave Maus, remained almost oblivious to new developments in the New English Art Club and the Slade School.


Hefting, V., and E. Bergvelt, M. K. Bijutsukan, T. Bijutsukan (eds), Toorop, Jan Theodor, 1858-1928, Tokyo, 1988; Laughton, B., The British and American Contribution to Les Vingt, 1884-1893, London, 1967; Lucie-Smith, E., Symbolist Art, London, 1995; Wijnbeek, A. E., Toorop, Jan, Grove Art Online, Oxford University Press, at (accessed 13.07.2005).