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Rachel Ruysch

Who had ten children, a much coveted position as a court painter, sustained critical and financial success, and a lower profile yet supportive artist spouse?

Well, yes. But, if you hadn’t seen the title above, would you have guessed: early 18th Century Dutch Painter, Rachel Ruysch? The first female artist invited to join the Confrerie Pictura in the Hague, Ruysch was known for her remarkably real looking floral bouquets, her incorporation of hidden insects chewing into perfect petals, and her strategic use of light.

Born 1664 in the Hague, Ruysch came from a long line of artists on her mother Maria Post’s side. Post’s father, Pieter Post, for instance, was a renowned architect. Rachel spent her childhood as an eager assistant to her father, Frederik Ruysch – an influential anatomist and botanist. Vader Ruysch opened his own museum of odd specimens – flowers, insects, horrifying body bits – resting in glass jars filled with his super secret recipe embalming fluid.

It was through studying her father’s preserved floral specimens that Rachel Ruysch learned so much about the intricacies of flowers. Flowers were also considered ‘appropriate’ subjects for female artists of the time versus, say, the male figure. As a teenager, Ruysch apprenticed with Willem von Aelst, another well known still life painter from the Dutch Golden Age.

With her keen botanical memory and her embalmed floral muses, Rachel Ruysch was able to bring together on canvas flowers from altogether different growing seasons. It was in 1701 that Ruysch – and her lesser known portrait painter husband, Juriaen Pool – were offered membership in The Hague Painter’s Guild.

On top of all of her artistic success, Ruysch and her family won more than one lottery! But, Ruysch also endured deep tragedy in the passing of a number of her children.

By the time she stopped painting at 83 years old, Ruysch had created hundreds of works. She passed away in 1750 at the age of 86, months after she was celebrated with a series of ‘Poems for the Excellent Painter Mistress Rachel Ruysch’ or ‘Dichtlovers voor de uitmuntende schilderessen Mejufvrouwe Rachel Ruisch’.

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1683. Still life of a thistle between carnations and cornflowers on a mossy forest floor, with butterflies and a cricket

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1698. Still life with flowers in a vase on a ledge with a dragonfly, caterpillar, and butterfly

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1700. Vase with Flowers

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1711. Flowers, Fruit, Reptiles, and Insects on the Edge of a Wood

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1715. Vase With Flowers

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1720. Still Life With Flowers in A Glass Vase

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1741. Spray of Flowers, with a Beetle on a Stone Balustrade

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Header: 1716. Still life with flowers on a marble tabletop

 

 

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