Of all the works in Charley Toorop’s oeuvre, her self-portraits perhaps make the biggest impression. She paints herself strictly and mercilessly, almost always full face or three-quarter view. Her face appears sculpted, with hard lines and surfaces. Every self-portrait is dominated by the eyes, which she paints disproportionately large and that confer the portrait enormous power.
In this Self-portrait, Charley Toorop paints herself during the Second World War, in which she lost friends and was forced to leave her home and studio. The pensive gaze and her entire facial expression reflects her state of mind. The black hat with veil and black coat indicate mourning. Striking amid all the black is the purple flower, possibly intended to symbolize a new beginning.
The painting has a tight composition. The lines of the mouth, the nose and the wrinkles of the face are taut. With a sharp observation of not only her outward appearance, but also her inner disposition, in this painting Charley Toorop gives an uncompromising depiction of her most essential self.