Jan Toorop, Broek in Waterland, 1889

Jan Toorop, Broek in Waterland - 1889

Broek in Waterland is the name of a beautiful village just north of Amsterdam. For centuries, emperors, tsars, and other distinguished visitors toured this small community of neat wooden houses, situated by a “broek,” or marsh. In February 1889, Jan Toorop traveled there with the Belgian poet and critic Emile Verhaeren. Later that year, he painted this vivid memoir of winter twilight in the countryside beyond the village. Toorop was among several progressive artists in Belgium and the Netherlands who eagerly experimented with the Neo-Impressionist methods of Georges Seurat, whose work made a highly publicized debut in Brussels in 1887. Toorop became the most influential Dutch practitioner of the style, though his Neo-Impressionist canvases are quite rare. The dramatic color scheme of Broek in Waterland pits the deep blues and greens of the land against the glowing hues of water and sky. Though Toorop applied Neo-Impressionist color principles selectively, he did adopt its pointillist, or dotted, brushwork. Enhancing the power of this vivid landscape is its strong geometric structure. The shallow canals form two sharply receding diagonals, echoed by the bare trunks of the pollard willow trees and intersecting the ribbons of color in the evening sky. Even the couple, with their reflection in the rippling waters of the foreground, contributes to this firm network. Gliding through the water at day’s end, they may well mirror the artist’s sympathy for working men and women, a sentiment shared by many of his Neo-Impressionist colleagues.