Showing posts with label toto koopman. Show all posts
Showing posts with label toto koopman. Show all posts

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Hello, Toto

   I recently became intrigued by the one-time model/actress/socialite Catherina "Toto" Koopman, whilst perusing a biography of the industrious newspaper tycoon Lord Beaverbrook. This was a woman who was a visible biracial beauty in a time where it was decidedly not fashionable to be so; moreover, this elegant half-Dutch, half-Chinese luminary led quite the intriguing life, from her upbringing in Java to her education in Holland and England; from her work for Chanel to her poise and poses in photography shoots by Edward J. Steichen and Hoyningen Huene 

   More interestingly, she was involved with both Lord Beaverbrook in 1933 or '34 and later, his son, Max Aitken, from 1935 to 1939. Lord Beaverbrook was incensed and troubled by Max's involvement - apparently due to sexual jealousy and distaste at the idea of a Javanese daughter-in-law - to the point that he gave them sums of money and a flat in Portland Square off Oxford Street to remain unmarried, whilst perennially desiring to break them up. She was also pursued by Viscount Castlerosse, incensing his wife to the point of threatening to have Koopman named in their long-mooted divorce case

   Matters become more interesting and opaque still regarding her wartime activities. Koopman is thought to have performed as a go-between for British intelligence in Italy, until she was double-crossed, compromised and interred at Ravensbrück concentration camp for two years, during which time she performed heroically, whether by trying to save those marked for death or smuggling food to her maltreated fellow inmates. Even after such a harrowing time, she continued enriching those around her by running the Hanover Gallery with her lover and fellow war heroine, Erica Brausen. Amongst the careers they guided was that of one Francis Bacon

   Not entirely lost to history, Koopman is recognised as one of the early lights of the modelling world, as well as an arbiter and a saver of lives, with an enviable fortitude to handle anything that was thrown at her. We should all have girlfriends this tough

It really was another world. One dressed not to please men but to astound other women