For a woman living in the seventeenth century, Judith Leyster was remarkable. She was a successful artist, one of the few women who joined the painters' guild in her city of Haarlem in the Netherlands.
Born in 1609 in Haarlem, Leyster may have worked in the workshop of the famous Dutch portraitist Frans Hals . The relaxed pose and gesture she used in her Self-Portrait is very similar to one Hals had used for a male portrait just a few years before.
Leyster liked to paint energetic scenes with one or two figures—sometimes children—engaged in merrymaking: music, dance, and games. She worked for several years around Utrecht and Amsterdam, before returning to Haarlem where she entered the painters' guild in 1633.
She also had her own studio and taught several students. In 1636 Leyster married painter Jan Miense Molenaer; the couple had five children. Scholars believe that Leyster made few paintings after her marriage, though she may have collaborated with her husband.
Judith Leyster died in 1660. By the end of the 1800s her work was virtually unknown, often attributed to other artists. Now rediscovered, Leyster's reputation is secure as a highly skilled, successful female in a field dominated by men.
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