Dutch Impressionist, Symbolist and Art Nouveau painter, illustrator and graphic designer, Jan Theodoor Toorop was born in Purworedjo Java, Indonesia. In 1863 his family moved to Banka, a small island to the southeast of Sumatra. In 1869 he left Indonesia for the Netherlands, where he attended high school in the town of Leiden. In 1875 Toorop moved to The Hague and began taking lessons from H.J. van der Weele. He became acquainted with painters from the Haagse School and worked at the Polytechnische School in Delft. In 1880 he visited the National Academy for the Arts in Amsterdam where he was a pupil of August Allebé. He also worked in sculpture and crafts and joined the St. Lucas Association. In 1882 he went to Brussels where he remained until 1886, taking lessons at the Ecole des Arts Décoratifs.
In 1884 Toorop exhibited at the Groupe des Artistes Indépendants in Paris and joined the artists group, “Les XX”. In the year that followed he had his first exposition and traveled to England where he discovered the Pre- Raphaelites. Toorop suffered from a serious disease in 1887 that rendered him temporarily blind. By 1891 he was recognized as a fully-developed Symbolist and in the following year he exhibited symbolical works by “Les XX”. In 1894 Toorop had a solo exhibition in the Museum “De Lakenhal” in Leiden and the newly founded English art periodical, “The Studio”, illustrated some of his work.
1895 was an important year for Toorop’s dry needle art and he completed numerous commercial artworks, posters and book covers. In 1905 he converted to Roman Catholicism and changed his first name to Johannes. During this time his work became more mystic and religious. In 1918, he celebrated his 60th birthday with an exhibit at the art dealership, “Kleykamp” at The Hague. Despite the fact that he was almost continuously confined to a wheel chair by 1920, he continued to work, completing drawings, graphic works, portraits and a design for the 2 cent postage stamp. Toorop died in The Hague in 1928.