Judith Leyster and other seventeenth century Low Countries women painters


Judith Leyster, Self-portrait

This is a re-working of my earlier log on Judith Leyster.

The seventeenth century, as the Dutch republic fought it itself free from the Spanish monarchy, brought big expansion to art in The Netherlands.

Now, unlike in other countries, painters were not dependent any more on the nobility or the church to employ them, but quite some bourgeois people were interested in buying art.

The Dutch revolt also brought a better position for women in society, compared to European countries.

However, we should not exaggerate the positive consequences of these two points for Dutch women artists in the seventeenth century.

To be really recognized as a painter then, one had to be a member of an artists’ guild.

These guilds did not completely ban women members; however, they very rarely admitted them.

According to Elke Linda Buchholz, in the Dutch city of Delft, important in seventeenth century painting, in a hundred-year period, only two out of 352 members of the guild were women.

Judith Leyster was a guild member in Haarlem.

Translated from Dutch Vivant magazine, #3, 2006, p. 19, by Peter Huys:

In 1633, Judith Leyster from Haarlem (1609-1660) paints the self-portrait which would make her famous.

What a self-assuredness!

How daring to let the arm rest on a chair, so contrary to the rules of respectable portrait painting.

Judith painted this work as her ‘masterpiece’, the painting which every painter had to make in order to be admitted to a guild.

It is not surprising that this painting was considered impertinent and erotical: she laughs without inhibitions, and points her brush towards the crotch of the man on the easel before her.

However, the Lucas guild in Haarlem did admit her, allowing to establish herself there as a master painter.

In 1635, the complains to the dean of the guild that a painting apprentice ran away to unconventional colleague Frans Hals.

That was Jan Miense Molenaar, later a famous painter.

One year after this incident, she marries him.

After her marriage, she hardly painted anymore.

Her signature included a star (‘ster’ in Dutch), after the second syllable of her name.

Other Low Countries women artists of the seventeenth century: still-life painters Clara Peeters from Antwerp, and Maria van Oosterwijck.

And Rachel Ruysch, who painted especially flowers (her father was a botanist).

Women artists in history: here.

4 thoughts on “Judith Leyster and other seventeenth century Low Countries women painters

  1. Pingback: Dutch painter Henk Helmantel | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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  3. Pingback: New Judith Leyster painting discovered | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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