This drawing served as a preliminary study for the painting Three Children with Toys (Kröller-Müller Museum collection, 1923-1924). Charley Toorop (1891-1955) here portrayed her own children. The collage-like manner of representation – with the heads partly overlapping – reduces the sense of space, ...while increasing the intimacy between the children. The fact that daughter Annetje (left) and youngest son John hold hands reinforces that closeness.
Annetje looks forward with wide eyes. We see only one eye of eldest son Edgar, staring dreamily into space. John looks down timidly. The portrait exudes a subdued and serene atmosphere; however, the family situation was very different in reality. Toorop’s marriage to Henk Fernhout (by then over) suffered from alcohol-related problems and aggression and while Toorop deeply loved her children, art came first. The boys were largely raised by nannies, Annetje by her grandparents. After divorcing Fernhout, Toorop regularly had short-lived romantic relationships with artists.
Toorop was aware of the power of a good likeness: 'A painted or drawn portrait should be more than a photo. A photo offers little more than a moment, but in a well-painted portrait you can recognise someone in all of their expressions.’
Text: Myrthe Wesseling, guide and museum host
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Chalk on paper
71.5 x 63.5 cm (h x w)
Type of object
Mw C. van Hovell tot Westerflier, Antwerpen
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