It was during the 1890s that the artist developed his distinctive Symbolist style, depicting his subjects in willowy guises and working in fine and intricate lines, often floral and curvilinear, inspired by Javanese motifs. In 1894, the year before the date of the present work, Toorop was commissioned by the Dutch Oil Company to design a poster for their salad oil. Toorop’s image was an instant success: the stylised swathes of dress and hair were bold and innovative and the image soon became synonymous with the Dutch Art Nouveau movement. Indeed, so iconic was the design that it earnt the Dutch Art Nouveau its moniker ‘Slaolie’ (‘Salad-Oil Style’).
The present work is executed in the precise and intricate manner for which Toorop is celebrated. The sitter’s beautiful profile is set against a backdrop of elaborate flora, punctuated by rhythmic striations of tree trunks. Toorop’s works were to have a profound influence on Viennese artist Gustav Klimt and the present work exemplifies the expressive use of line which was to prove so inspirational for Klimt. In 2006-2007, the Gemeentemuseum held an exhibition entitled Toorop in Vienna: Inspiring Klimt. A decade later, they held another exhibition entitled Toorop: Melodies of the Time in which the present work was exhibited.
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