By | 19 Dec 2022 at 11:09 AM
Judith Leyster Biography, Early Life, Style and Techniques, Famous Paintings

Judith Leyster Biography: Painting came easy for Judith Leyster, a 17th-century master painter and key figure in the Dutch Golden Age. Misogyny and a forged signature, on the other hand, caused art dealers to misattribute her paintings to male artists for decades. On this day in 2009, the National Gallery of Art and the Frans Hals Museum both held exhibitions in her honour. Today’s Doodle honours her efforts.

Many consider Judith Leyster one of the most talented artists of the Dutch Golden Age.

Leyster played a significant role beyond her own career by showcasing the talents of female painters, who had been discouraged from entering the field for generations. Her determination and talent paid off, and she became one of the era’s successful female painters. Art history misattributed her work to similar artists for years, however this error was resolved and we can now learn about her life. She worked in a bright, popular style. It complemented her subject matter of lively social settings, similar to Bruegel’s work in the preceding century. Locals would drink, dine, and listen to live music at tavens and weddings.

Leyster married fellow artist Jan Miense Molenaer, as many notable female artists have. In some cases, like with Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, the husband was a famous artist who helped her overcome social hurdles (see also Sara van Baalbergen and Barent van Eysen).

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Early Life

Her huge Haarlem family welcomed her in 1609. Her parents brew and sew. Her father went bankrupt, so the family moved to Utrecht. Utrecht had many artists at the period, most of whom followed Caravaggio’s style. This may have influenced her to become an artist. Information on her early years as an artist is scant, and few possibilities have been proven. She began selling art in 1629 and joined the Haarlem Guild of St. Luke four years later. During the 17th century, the guild hired numerous women, but their skills were in ceramics and needlework, not painting.

Marriage to Jan Miense Molenaer

In 1636, he married Jan Miense Molenaer. They were similar ages and had similar careers, although Molenaar was further along. Leyster had multiple apprentices, but her husband had many patrons. They planned to go to Amsterdam to take advantage of Jan’s success there. They spent 11 years there before returning to Haarlem, where they were raised. Concerning the past two centuries, misunderstanding over attributions has been cleared up. Both had art identified as Frans Hals’, and they took inspiration from it while adding their own ideas. Leyster’s career has benefited from a growing interest in female artists from the past.

Methods

The artist’s unique elements set her apart from her husband and Frans Hals. She employed simple backgrounds to highlight her figurative work. She rarely drew more than a few figures, allowing for greater detail and intimate compositions. She adopted the prevalent genre painting technique of the time, which represented the ordinary lives of Dutch people but left them anonymous. Her best art features young women and toddlers, but also many scenes of men socialising with food and drink. Misattributed to Frans Hals, some were considered as his best work, highlighting his technical skill. Her style was loose and expressive, which matched settings of social merriment, laughter, and joy.

Famous Paintings by Judith Leyster

Around thirty works by the artist have survived to the present day. Their style and qualities are consistent. Her self-portrait is her most famous work, perhaps because it shows us the artist and helps us understand her. The Proposition is a well-known Dutch genre artwork. Jolly Toper, The Last Drop, A Boy and a Girl with a Cat and an Eel, and Serenade show her appreciation of social events and unique personalities. The Rijksmuseum continues to showcase her achievements with artefacts from their permanent collection, and many of her most famous paintings are governed by where they now dwell. In time, further paintings, possibly even drawings, may be attributed to her, either from newly rediscovered works or via reevaluation of old artworks.

Dutch Golden Age artists

In recent years, historical female artists have received more attention. They fought for acceptance in a male-dominated sector for generations. Some have surmounted these difficulties, but many would have been deterred by society’s view of women’s roles at the time. Leyster was one who succeeded, but her works were assigned to male artists for years after her death. This inaccuracy has been addressed, and there are additional famous female artists from the Dutch Golden Age. Merian, van de Passe, Rachel Ruysch, Maria Schalcken, Anna Maria van Schurman, Clara Peeters, Alida Withoos. Many were erased from art history in the 18th century and eventually returned. Mis-attributions are prevalent in the art industry, but so many female artists suffering from them makes one infer a purposeful effort to penalise them based on their gender. Women Artists of the Dutch Golden Age was a recent show in Washington DC, USA.

Frans Hals lawsuit

Leyster sued Frans Hals after one of her students joined his workshop. She was outraged that one of her most talented apprentices was seduced away and sued the student’s mother for compensation. Hals paid a fine, but the young painter refused to work for her again. Perhaps she became fierce to survive in the profession, but her artistic genius was most significant. Before this occurrence, she and Hals may have been close; others argue that he taught her many of her skills. They may have been friends who discussed art and had a similar style. Since centuries have gone, it’s hard to know the real facts, therefore we discuss what’s likely to have happened.

Legacy

All of Judith Leyster’s work was ascribed to other painters for years. In the 18th and 19th centuries, her work was finally appraised fairly. Some of this confusion may not have been intentional because she typically didn’t sign her paintings, but it may have been more profitable for collectors to pretend a work was by Frans Hals rather than Leyster. She worked more expressively than other women artists of that era, showing what’s possible when given a chance. She showed the wealth of artistic innovation in Haarlem at the time, even though much of her work was created after the family moved to Amsterdam. Many of her most famous paintings are in the permanent collections of the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, the Mauritshuis, the Frans Hals Museum, the Louvre, the National Gallery in London, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC.