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Famous Paintings Pt. 5: The Life of Judith Leyster

Judith Leyster was a Dutch Golden Age painter. She was extremely famous during her life, but centuries of distortion and neglect made people forget her art until recently.

Judith Leyster was born in Haarlem, the Netherlands on July 28, 1609. Not a lot is known of Leyster’s early training, but she had made a name for herself at a young age. She is mentioned in a description of the town Haarlem as an active artist in 1628 when she’s only 19 years old. Leyster and her family moved around multiple times, but Leyster later returned to Haarlem. Like many artists, Leyster may have trained with many teachers, but there is little to no evidence of artistic training. Some suggest that she studied with Frans Pietersz de Grebber, also a Dutch Golden Age Painter, who ran a workshop in the 1620s.

In the years following, Leyster achieved professional success that was amazing and quite rare for a woman at her time. By 1633 she was a member of the Saint Luke’s Guild of Haarlem, the first woman admitted in.

Leyster’s art style was also new. She was a Baroque dutch painter, meaning she had a kind of extravagant style of art characterized by curving lines, gilt, and gold. However, unlike traditional Baroque painters who fancied some symbolic meaning in their work, Leyster’s paintings tended to remain vague and suggestive, promoting the viewers to draw their own conclusions.


One of her most famous artworks is her self-portrait. Leyster painted herself at her easel, briefly interrupting her work to interact with the viewer. The painting radiates self-confidence in her abilities and is one of the most popular Dutch paintings. The clever depiction of her tools - a palette, a cloth, and 18 brushes - makes the painting seem incredibly life-like.

Judith Leyster died on February 10, 1660. She achieved what was rare for a woman of her time. Leyster became of the most successful and famous Dutch golden age painters of her time. However, her legacy and work became almost forgotten after her death. Still, many people today regard her as one of the most influential Dutch golden age painters.

“Judith Leyster - National Gallery of Art.” National Gallery of Art.

“Judith Leyster, Self-Portrait, 1630 - National Gallery of Art.” National Gallery of Art.

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