Description & Technical information

Pencil, black chalk and wax crayon on wove paper from a sketchbook. Laid down. 

The title given to this late drawing by Jan Toorop, De Droom der Zeven Heuvelen (The Dream of the Seven Hills) is found in the caption of a reproduction of the work in the book Het boek der koningin, published in 1919. The title may perhaps refer to a dream about the city of Rome, the capitol of the Catholic faith, which was built on seven hills, but this must remain conjectural. Nevertheless, the religious atmosphere in this drawing is palpable.

Drawn c.1913-1914, this drawing depicts the poet and painter Miek Janssen (1890-1953), who was to be Toorop’s devoted friend and muse for the last decade and a half of his life. A native of Oosterbeek, Wilhelmina Martha Catharina Maria Theresia (known as ‘Miek’) Janssen met Toorop in his Nijmegen studio in April 1912 (a meeting she later described as ‘one of the greatest moments of my life’) and soon became very close to the artist. While it is certain that they had some kind of relationship, it was kept largely secret, and the extent of it remains a mystery. Toorop illustrated a number of Janssen’s works of poetry, notably Aan der einder (On the Horizon), which was published in 1915 with several of his drawings. Janssen was deeply religious and her relationship with Toorop had strong religious overtones; the two made a pilgrimage together to Lourdes in 1919, when the artist’s health was failing. Devoted to Toorop even after his death, Janssen published several books about the artist between 1915 and 1933, many tinged with a degree of hagiography.

Toorop produced several portrait drawings of Miek Janssen, notably a black chalk drawing of the same period as the present sheet, in the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague, while a chalk and metalpoint drawing of her is in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Janssen also modelled for such works of this period as The Prayer (Het Gebed) of 1914, a large drawing in pastel and black chalk today in the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.

The first owner of this drawing was the Dutch art historian, painter, lecturer, critic and publisher H. P. (‘Henk’) Bremmer (1871-1956), who may have received the drawing as a gift from the artist. One of the foremost art critics and connoisseurs of his day, Bremmer played a significant role in introducing contemporary art to a wider audience. In his role as an art advisor, Bremmer worked closely with Helene Kröller-Müller, one of the wealthiest women in Holland, whose substantial art collection - including a number of important works by Toorop – became the nucleus of the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo. Bremmer’s own collection included works by Auguste Herbin, Piet Mondrian, Odilon Redon and Vincent van Gogh, as well as both Jan and Charley Toorop.

Date:  1913-1914
Period:  20th century
Origin:  The Netherlands
Medium: Pencil, Black chalk, wax crayon on wove paper
Signature: Signed JTHToorop at the lower left and numbered No.3 at the upper right.

Dimensions: 14.7 x 24.8 cm (5³/₄ x 9³/₄ inches)
Provenance: Hendricus Peter Bremmer, The Hague
By descent to a private collection, Holland
Anonymous sale (‘The Property of a Descendant of H. P. Bremmer’), Amsterdam, Christie’s, 1 December 1998, lot 211
Kunsthandel Studio 2000, Blaricum
Acquired from them in 2004 by the Triton Collection Foundation, The Netherlands.

Literature: Cornelis Easton, J. E. Heeres and A. van der Valk, Het boek der koningin, Amsterdam, 1919, illustrated facing p.8; Hans Janssen, Têtes Fleuries: 19e en 20e-eeuwse portretkunst uit de Triton Foundation / 19th and 20th Century Portraiture from the Triton Foundation, The Hague, 2007, p.17, illustrated; Sjraar van Heugten, Avant-gardes 1870 to the present: The Collection of the Triton Foundation, Brussels, 2012, p.127, illustrated p.132; To be included in the forthcoming Toorop catalogue raisonné by Gerard van Wezel.

Exhibitions: The Hague, Gemeentemuseum, Têtes Fleuries: 19e en 20e-eeuwse portretkunst uit de Triton Foundation / 19th and 20th Century Portraiture from the Triton Foundation, 2007; Rotterdam, Kunsthal, 15 jaar Marlies Dekkers /15 Years Marlies Dekkers, 2008 [no catalogue].

Categories: Paintings, Drawings & Prints