Rachel Ruysch flowers in a glass vase with a tulip 1716
Rachel Ruysch the Dutch seventeenth century flower painter was certainly a woman not to be underestimated as I discovered in the National Gallery’s recent sketch tour. No struggling lowly artist was she. Receiving commissions from Princes and nobility throughout Europe. Towards the end of her career in 1708 she was awarded with a prestigious appointment as court painter to the Elector Palatine in Düsseldorf.
So amidst all the Dutch flower painters of this period what makes her work so exceptional. Firstly she had an outstanding understanding knowledge of botany and flora and fauna. she learnt this from her father who was a celebrated anatomist, botanist, and collector – was head of Amsterdam’s botanical garden. She studied under the artist Willem van Aelst, but the student surpassed her teacher. It was though in her handling of painting and her rendering of floral textures that made her work so exceptional.
Flowers in a vase 1685
As well as having a very successful career as an artist she combined this with a family life consisting of raising ten children. She lived into her eighties, truely a woman not to be underestimated!