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Jan Toorop (Purworejo 1858-1928 The Hague)
Jan Toorop (Purworejo 1858-1928 The Hague)

Machelen, un jardinier plantant ses choux

Details
Jan Toorop (Purworejo 1858-1928 The Hague)
Machelen, un jardinier plantant ses choux
signed 'Jan Toorop' (lower left)
oil on canvas
67 x 76.5 cm.
Painted circa 1888.
Provenance
Mr. J. Toorop; A. Mak, Amsterdam, 22 December 1926, lot 2.
Anonymous sale, Sotheby Mak van Waay, Amsterdam, 28 October 1980, lot 294.
with Kunsthandel Ivo Bouwman, The Hague, where acquired by the family of the present owners.
Literature
R. Siebelhoff, The early development of Jan Toorop, dissertation, III, Catalogue raisonné, 1973, no. P8808, ill.
R. Siebelhoff, 'Jan Toorop's early Pointillist paintings', in: Oud Holland, vol. 89, no. 2, 1975, p. 92, no. 13.
V. Hefting, Jan Toorop, een kennismaking, Amsterdam, 1989, p. 49, ill., as: Spittende boer.
Jan Jaap Heij, Hollands impressionisme, Bussum, 2013, p. 52, 54.
Exhibited
Brussels, Les XX, 1889-1890, no. 12, as: Machelen, un jardinier plantant ses choux.
Michigan, De Pree Art Center & Gallery Hope College, Dutch Art & Modern Life 1882-1982, 2 October-13 November 1982, no. 10.
Tokyo, Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum Osaka, Navio Museum of Art Tsu, Mie Prefectural Art Museum The Hague, Gemeentemuseum, Jan Theodoor Toorop 1858-1928, 20 September 1988-9 April 1989, no. 18. Ghent, Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Verwantschap en Eigenheid, Belgische en Nederlandse kunst 1890-1945, 30 March-16 June 2002, no. 1.
The Hague, Gemeentemuseum, Herkomst: Ivo Bouwman, 16 February-12
May 2013.
Laren, Singer Museum, Hollands impressionisme, 30 May-25 August 2013.

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Lot Essay

Painted circa 1888, Jan Toorop's Machelen, un jardinier plantant ses choux is one of the early Pointillist paintings produced by the artist following his exposure to the Divisionist technique of George Seurat's Un dimanche d'été a l'île de la Grande Jatte. That picture had been shown together with six other works by his hand during the Les Vingt exhibition in Brussels in 1887. In Toorop's picture, the naturalistic subject of the gardener sticking his spade into the ground to plant his cabbage while his wife sits on a wheelbarrow with their child in her lap reminds the spectator of Jean-Francois Millet's L'Angelus of 1857. In that painting we see a similar setting of a farmer and his wife on their land, a wheelbarrow behind them. However, there is no child present in Millet's picture, and the figures are shown praying. Even though the figures in Toorop's picture are not praying, we can detect a similar sense of devotion in their faces. Both artists lent their subjects a profound intensity which was rendered even more powerful by setting the scenes during sunset. In Machelen, un jardinier plantant ses choux, the bright purple and yellow colours from the sun that has disappeared behind the horizon float above the heads of the figures, lighting them from behind and lending them a silhouette-like aura. Due to the new Pointillist technique Toorop was using, he succeeded in creating an extremely 'modern' version of an older subject.

In 1883, Toorop settled in Machelen, a village north of Brussels; he was struck by this rural and peaceful place and had a great affinity with the simple lives of the peasants and the country folk. In Machelen, Toorop met fellow artist William Degouve de Nuncques, who supported Toorop's membership of Les Vingt. He would later recall: "[Toorop] was always in contact with simple people; he liked to talk to them, and he took an interest in their work" (letter from Degouve de Nuncques to Dutch art critic Albert Plasschaert, 1902). Toorop settling in Machelen and his interest in the rural life coincided with the rise of the Arts and Crafts movement in England, which he often visited with his English wife Annie Hall. It was in the cradle of the industrial revolution that the strongest urge to move away from materialism and instead back to nature was found, and this translated into various art forms, influencing the artist deeply.

The Neo-Impressionist dot technique Toorop used in Machelen, un jardinier plantant ses choux had originated as a method to render natural light in a systematic way, based on recent scientific theories about the nature of light. In Toorop's painterly Pointillist technique, the dots serve not only to create colour through an optical mixture but also to denote a calmly lit atmosphere. Although it is dusk, the labourer is still working the land. With artists like Signac and Seurat, the technique became a vehicle of political aspiration, whereas with Toorop, it signified perhaps the longing for the spiritual, which he was on the brink of exploring in his work. It was a consequence of the painstaking process of minute stippling that Toorop employed in his Pointillist works that he completed no more than five paintings a year, making them all the rarer. Indeed, he soon abandoned this style for a broader, more expressive technique.

Besides from Piet Mondriaan and Vincent van Gogh, Jan Toorop one of the few Dutch artists of international importance of the period. From 1882, he lived in and around Brussels, which was the centre of renewal in painting with a lot of artistic activity. This extended to music, art and architecture: no other place in Europe had so many Art Nouveau buildings erected. By encountering so many new styles due to his involvement in the Avant Garde group Les Vingt, formed in 1883 by Octave Maus, Toorop's curiosity was piqued and he experimented enthusiastically with these advances in his work. Les Vingt, as the name indicated, consisted of twenty artists, initially all Belgians. Their aim was to bring together artists who were moving in new directions, focusing not only on painting but also on literature and music. They organized exhibitions to which they invited other Avant Gardistic artists from abroad like Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Paul Gauguin, Paul Cézanne and Vincent van Gogh. The present lot was exhibited during the annual exhibition of Les Vingt held in 1889.

To be included in the Catalogue Raisonné on the artist's work, currently being prepared by G.W.C. van Wezel.

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