She was born in Antwerp, in her time an important center of both commerce and art, including Pieter Breughel the Elder.
A century later, as the armed forces of the Dutch republic emerging from Spanish rule had cut off Antwerp from the sea, the city had lost most of its economic importance, though art still flourished with Breughel’s sons and Rubens.
As with other daughters (and sons) of sixteenth century painters, we are not sure what Catharina painted exactly, as she colloborated anonymously on her father’s work.
Only ten paintings signed by her are known.
Not one of them is from after 1556, when she returned from a stay at the Spanish court, where she worked like her Italian colleague Sofonisba Anguissola.
Van Hemessen is often given the distinction of creating the first self-portrait of an artist, of either gender, depicted seated at an easel.
This portrait, created in 1548, which shows the artist in the early stages of painting a portrait, now hangs at the Öffentliche Kunstsammlung in Basel.
The self-portrait has a monochrome (dark) background.
In this, Catharina van Hemessen was “traditional’, as other artists then started painting more complex backgrounds.
Matthias Grünewald: here.