Women Artists of the Dutch Golden Age

  • A still life painting featuring a bowl of dead fish, silver platter with an oyster and shrimp, and a cat with a fish in its paws sitting next to it
    Clara Peeters, "Still Life of Fish and Cat," after 1620; Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay
  • A painting of three seated figures; from left to right: a man playing violin, a woman listening, and a man playing lute.
    Judith Leyster, "The Concert," ca. 1633; Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay
  • A painting of a vase holding many different kinds of flowers
    Rachel Ruysch, "Roses, Convolvulus, Poppies and Other Flowers in an Urn on a Stone Ledge (detail)," ca. late 1680s; Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay; Photo by Lee Stalsworth

Women Artists of the Dutch Golden Age on view October 11, 2019–January 5, 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 Leyster, Maria Sibylla Merian, Magdalena van de Passe, Clara Peeters, Rachel 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.

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Map and Timeline

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

 


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.