Precise and realistic
Edgar Fernhout comes from a famous family of artists. He is the son of Charley Toorop and grandson of Jan Toorop and starts painting himself at an early age. Initially he works in a very precise, realistic style. The works from this early period, mainly landscapes and portraits, are also termed magic realism, due to the austere and hushed character of the scenes.
In Sheep skull Fernhout has already abandoned this style to some extent. The skull, which lies on a bed of rushes, is still detailed and realistic, but without the impersonal aloofness that characterize the earlier work.
The painting dates from 1941. Fernhout made many still lifes during the war years, because he refused to become a member of the Kultuurkamer and was forced to work indoors. In these works the skull is a frequently recurring motif, a reference to the transience of life.
From the mid-1950s, his paintings become increasingly abstract. Nature remains his source of inspiration, particularly the sea and dunes, but eventually only the titles of the works still refer to a visible reality.