Oil on canvas: 36 x 46 cm 1888
In 1882 Jan Toorop (1858-1928) settled in Brussels to continue his studies at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in the Belgian capital. Not much later he did get into close contact with the avant-garde artists that founded one year later the so-called group of the Twenty (‘Les XX’). Although initially only Belgian artists could be a member of this group, the Dutchman Jan Toorop was the only foreigner invited to be a full member of ‘Les XX’.
´Lynmouth Bay’, formerly called “Mer Calme (Devonshire)” is one of Jan Toorop’s earliest pointillist paintings, but not the first one. Toorop became acquainted with this new technique even before he had seen the “Dimanche à l’île de la Grande-Jatte” , the famous painting by George Seurat(1859-1891) of 1884, that was exhibited at Les XX in Brussels in 1887. He had seen studies by Seurat in London before 1887.
After 1885 a change of style, technique and vision followed in rapid succession, although in 1887 due to ill health, there was a halt in Toorop’s development . Having recovered a year later, he travelled with his English wife Annie Hall to England, where he painted several pointillist landscapes which he exhibited in February 1889 at Les XX in Brussels. The English paintings were lighter and more poetic than the Dutch, which contained more social elements.
“Lynmouth Bay” was exhibited at Les XX as number 9. Toorop showed fifteen works on this occasion of which seven were painted in “the new style”. With painting of similar size and subject, number 10 was the afore mentioned “Mer Calme (Devonshire) – Matin” (private collection). Although comparable, these works were executed in a slightly different manner. The dots of ” Lynmouth Bay “ are finer, where as Mer Calme is done in small but pronouced brushstrokes. In colour and atmosphere these works are very much connected to French neo-impressionism. Although Toorop didn’t work according to any colour theory, Siebelhoff stated that in Lynmouth Bay an influence of a colour theory can be seen : the sun contains the complementary light green and pink and the upper section of the boat orange and light blue. The sky is very pale blue white (op cit., p. 249)
In 1889, Philip Zilcken – a close friend and colleague of Toorop – was positive in his article about ‘Lynmouth Bay“. About Toorop’s stay in Lynmouth he records ‘De eerste werken die hij hierbuiten maakte, meende hij door de tegenstelling van zuiver, onverdeeld geel, blauw en rood zeer sterk van kleur te maken; verwonderd was hij toen hij die in tegendeel zeer blank en teer van toon vond. Een der mooiste, de Baay van Linmouth (sic) is in het bezit van den heer Cordeweener te Brussel’ (Zilcken, op cit., p.120).
Toorop donated “Lynmouth Bay” to his Belgian friend and collector Jules Cordeweener. From the correspondence between these two, we learn that the view is taken from the shores along Lynmouth, in Devonshire. In 1925, after Cordeweener death, his collection was sold at an auction at Mak van Waay in Amsterdam, where Mr. H. Nijgh – a well-known publisher in Rotterdam – purchased the work for his outstanding collection.
The painting is to be included in the catalogue raisonné on the artist’s work, currently being prepared by G.W.C. van Wezel.