Thursday, June 8, 2017

Dutch Woman Artist & Botanist - Rachel Ruysch, 1664-1750

Rachel Ruysch (Dutch artist, 1664-1750) portrait by Godfried Schalcken (1643-1706)

Rachel Ruysch (Dutch artist, 1664-1750)  was a still life painter from the Northern Netherlands who specialized in accurately depicting plants and flowers. She was born in The Hague to Frederik Ruysch & Maria Post.  Ruysch’s maternal grandfather, Pieter Post, was an important architect, & her father was an eminent scientist. From him, she learned how to observe & record nature with great accuracy. 
Rachel Ruysch (Dutch artist, 1664-1750) A 'Forest Floor' Still Life of Flowers

The family moved to Amsterdam, when she was 3; & her father became a professor there. He was a famous anatomist & botanist, & his family received visitors to view his personal collection of rarities in the curiosity cabinet in his house. 
Rachel Ruysch (Dutch artist, 1664-1750) A Spray of Flowers

With her brothers & sisters, Rachel assisted her father decorating the prepared specimens in a liquor balsamicum with flowers & lace. Her father made a catalog of his work & illustrated it himself.  
Rachel Ruysch (Dutch artist, 1664-1750) A Still Life with Flowers, Butterflies and a Lizard in a Dell

Rachel's mother's network of painter friends was large, as the daughter of Pieter Post. Young Rachel began to paint the flowers & insects of her father's collection.  In 1685, her father became a professor of botany at the Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam.
Rachel Ruysch (Dutch artist, 1664-1750) A Vase of Flowers 

In 1679, at age 15 Ruysch was apprenticed to Willem van Aelst, a prominent flower painter in Amsterdam. In 1693, she married the Amsterdam portrait painter Juriaen Pool, with whom she had 10 children. Her sister Pieternel married the painter Jan Moninckx, & another sister Anna conveniently married a dealer in paints. 
Rachel Ruysch (Dutch artist, 1664-1750) A Vase of Flowers

Ruysch practiced her art in the Baroque period of art history. Baroque art was a style that arose in Europe around 1600, as a reaction against the earlier Mannerist style, an intricate & formulaic approach which had dominated the late Renaissance period. The Baroque style was less complex & more realistic.
Rachel Ruysch (Dutch artist, 1664-1750) An Arrangement of Flowers by a Tree Trunk

Rachel was offered membership in the Confrerie Pictura, the painters' guild, in The Hague as their first female member in 1701.  At that time, she began producing large flower works for an international circle of patrons.
 Rachel Ruysch (Dutch artist, 1664-1750) Flowers in a Terracotta Vase

Flower painting emerged as part of the Baroque movement & was especially popular in the late 17C. During the period, the growing & more affluent merchant & middle classes began buying decorative flower paintings, & there was also a growing interest in plants resulting from the developing science of botany.
Rachel Ruysch (Dutch artist, 1664-1750) Flowers in a Vase

As botany grew, northern Europe witnessed the importation of many new & exotic plants. In Holland, Ruysch's homeland, the Dutch developed a wide variety of flowers; & gardening became increasingly popular.  Serious gardeners would seek out artists to paint pictures of their best or rarest flowers.
Rachel Ruysch (Dutch artist, 1664-1750) Flowers

Several years later after becoming a member of the Hague's painters' guild, Ruysch was invited to Düsseldorf to serve as court painter to Johann Wilhelm, the Elector Palatine of Bavaria. She worked for him from 1708, until his death in 1716.  She divided her time between The Hague & Dusseldorf, as she obtained a contract for works painted at home, that she periodically brought to Düsseldorf.  
Rachel Ruysch (Dutch artist, 1664-1750) Still Life with Fruit and a Vase of Flowers

Women artists seemed to be attracted to painting still life. However, artistic painting was considered a male domain. The most famous Dutch painter at the period was Rembrandt, the leading portraitist in Amsterdam. During the era, artistic efforts were divided into 2 categories: "greater" & "lesser." The greater categories included religious & historical themes. Among the "lesser" categories were still life, portraits, & landscapes; & these were considered areas most appropriate for women. 
Rachel Ruysch (Dutch artist, 1664-1750) Still Life with Fruit and a Vase of Flowers

Ruysch lived 85 years; & her dated works establish, that she painted from the age of 15, until she was an octogenarian. She remained artistically active, inscribing her age on a canvas she completed in 1747, at age 83. 
Rachel Ruysch (Dutch artist, 1664-1750) Still Life with Fruit, a Bird's Nest and Insects

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