Urgent Museum Notice

Women Artists of the Dutch Golden Age

Still life painting features a reddish ceramic colander with several types of fish. In the foreground, a cat stands alert next to shrimp and oyster shells on a gleaming pewter dish.
Oct 11, 2019 to Jan 05, 2020

This focus exhibition examines the lives and works of several highly successful artists in the Netherlands during the 17th and early 18th centuries, including Judith LeysterMaria Sibylla Merian, Magdalena van de Passe, Clara PeetersRachel Ruysch, Maria Schalcken, Anna Maria van Schurman, and Alida Withoos.

The Dutch Golden Age was a period of unprecedented economic growth. A rising middle class of wealthy merchants fueled the demand for paintings and prints of still-lifes, portraits, and scenes of everyday life. Becoming an artist during this time was often part of the family business, for both men and women. While women faced more obstacles than their male counterparts did, this exhibition reveals that women of this era not only succeeded but also excelled as artists, pushing the boundaries of what was possible in art and in life.

Considered individually, the stories of the women represented in this exhibition reveal that there was not just one path to becoming an artist, nor was there only one model for success. Some trained with fathers or brothers, some apprenticed with independent masters, and some learned from other women. Marriage and family responsibilities hindered some artists at times, while others flourished in their careers despite having many children. Taken together, the works by these artists demonstrate their talent in a variety of genres—from still lifes to scenes of everyday life to botanical illustrations—as well as a range of mediums. Through a wider view encompassing each artist’s individual struggles and triumphs, a clearer and more nuanced picture of women artists during the Dutch Golden Age comes into focus.

Works in Women Artists of the Dutch Golden Age are drawn primarily from NMWA’s collection. Loans to the exhibition include rare books that testify to the international renown of these innovative artists.

A still life painting featuring an asymmetrical arrangement of flowers; the central section features pink, orange, yellow, and blue flowers and is dramatically highlighted compared to the background and outer edge of arrangement.

Rachel Ruysch, Roses, Convolvulus, Poppies and Other Flowers in an Urn on a Stone Ledge, ca. late 1680s; Oil on canvas, 42 1/2 x 33 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay; Photo by Lee Stalsworth

Exhibition Sponsors

Women Artists of the Dutch Golden Age, presented in the Teresa Lozano Long Gallery of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, is organized by the museum and generously supported by the members of NMWA.

Related Media

Map and Timeline

Explore the movements and connections between the artists represented in the exhibition through this video.

Online Exhibition

Realistic and detailed, the still life painting meticulously renders a variety of brightly colored flowers densely arranged in a dark round vase set against a dark background. The vase sits upon a stone ledge with two stray pink roses laying in the foreground.
Explore an online version of Women Artists of the Dutch Golden Age, an exhibition examining the lives and works of several highly successful artists in the Netherlands during the 17th and early 18th centuries.

Related Blog Post

The lives and works of women artists of the Dutch Golden Age reveal connections between artists, patrons, and the subject matter of the natural world. The Dutch took pleasure in the wonders of nature—from flowers to food—and this is evident in the profusion of still-life paintings executed during the era.

Right: Rachel Ruysch, Roses, Convolvulus, Poppies and Other Flowers in an Urn on a Stone Ledge, ca. late 1680s; Oil on canvas, 42 1/2 x 33 in.; NMWA, Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay; Photo by Lee Stalsworth

A still life painting featuring an asymmetrical arrangement of flowers; the central section features pink, orange, yellow, and blue flowers and is dramatically highlighted compared to the background and outer edge of arrangement.