Although her parents had intended her to pursue a musical career, Charley Toorop (1891-1955) chose painting. Through her father, the famous painter Jan Toorop (1858-1928), she came into contact at an early age with many different artists and learned the trade gradually, without any formal training. ...
During her turbulent marriage to Henk Fernhout (1884-1946), he would repeatedly cut her paintings to pieces when he was drunk. After their marriage ended in 1917, painting was Toorop’s only way out, for the ‘preservation of my nerves.’
From then on, she developed her own expressive-realistic style. Being an artist was her priority she once told poet Hendrik Marsman (1899-1940), one of the many artists with whom she had a brief relationship. ‘It’s always that: a struggle between love and work. The two do not go together – at least for me: a struggle between being a woman and creative work.’
Toorop painted this portrait of Norine (Deschrijver-) van Hecke (1887-1977) in 1923. Norine van Hecke was a well-known Belgian fashion designer who together with her husband ran a couture house that bore her name. She was called the ‘Coco Chanel of the North’ because of the avant-garde features in her designs. Toorop portrayed her here in an evening gown, befitting her profession.
Text: Myrthe Wesseling, guide and museum host