Rachel Ruysch

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Portrait of Rachel Ruysch by Godfried Schalcken

Rachel Ruysch (The Hague, 3 June 1664 – Amsterdam, 12 August 1750) was a Dutch still life painter who specialized in flowers. She achieved international fame in her lifetime, and was the best documented woman painter of the Dutch Golden Age.[1] Art historians assess Ruysch to be one of the most talented still life artists among both men and women.[2] By her death at age 86 she had produced more than 250 paintings.[3]

Personal life[edit]

Portraits of Juriaan Pool and his wife Rachel Pool, born Ruisch

Rachel Ruysch was born into a wealthy and prosperous family in The Hague to Frederik Ruysch and Maria Post.Her father was a scientist and professor of anatomy and botany [1] and was also an amateur painter.[4] Frederik had a vast collection of animal skeletons, and mineral and botany samples which Rachel used to practice her drawing skills.[5] At a young age she began to paint the flowers and insects of her father's collection in the popular manner of Otto Marseus van Schrieck. She knew him and his disciples from his work for the Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam, where her father did business.[6] Rachel would also have known the flower painters Jan and Maria Moninckx, Alida Withoos and Johanna Helena Herolt-Graff, who all worked for the hortus owner Agnes Block and who like her father, also worked with the plant collectors Jan and Caspar Commelin.

In 1693, she married the Amsterdam portrait painter Juriaen Pool with whom she had ten children. Throughout her marriage and adult life she continued to paint and produce commissions for an international circle of patrons.[3]

Art Career[edit]

Roses, Convolvulus, Poppies, and Other Flowers in an Urn on a Stone Ledge

In 1679, at age fifteen, Ruysch was apprenticed to Willem van Aelst, a prominent flower painter. His studio in Amsterdam looked out over the studio of the flower painter Maria van Oosterwijck. Ruysch studied with van Aelst until his death in 1683.[4] Besides painting technique he taught her how to arrange a bouquet in a vase so it would look spontaneous and less formalized. This technique produced a more realistic and three-dimensional affect in her paintings. By the time Ruysch was eighteen she was producing and selling independently signed works.[3]

In 1699 Rachel was offered membership in the Confrerie Pictura in The Hague as their first female member.[7] and in 1701 she became a member with her husband of The Hauge Painter's Guild. Several years later, in 1708, Ruysch was invited to work for the court in Düsseldorf and serve as court painter to Johann Wilhelm, Elector Palatine.[7] She obtained a contract for works painted at home that she periodically brought to Düsseldorf.[7] She remained working for him and his wife from 1708 until the prince's death in 1716.

Ruysch lived to the age of eighty-five and her dated works establish that she painted from the age of 15 until only a few years before her death. Today about a hundred paintings by her are known.


Ruysch had a strong understanding of drawing and the techniques of earlier traditions. This knowledge improved her painting abilities.[4] She paid extensive attention to all details in her work. Every petal was created painstakingly with delicate brushwork. [8] The background of her paintings are usually dark which was the fashion for flower painting in the second half of the 17th century. Her asymmetrical compositions with drooping flowers and wild stems created paintings that seemed to possess a great energy about them.[3]


Ruysch enjoyed great fame and reputation in her lifetime. When she passed away in 1750 no less than 11 poets paid her their respects with poems about her.[1] In the 17th century the Dutch were very interested in flowers and gardening, so paintings that highlighted the beauty of nature were highly valued. This helped to build and maintain Ruysch's clientele throughout her career.[3] In her lifetime her paintings were sold for prices up to 750-1200 guilders, which was hugely impressive. In comparison, Rembrandt rarely received more than 500 guilders for a painting in his lifetime.[9]

In 1999 a painting of Ruysch's was discovered in a farmhouse and was sold at an auction in Normandy for 2.9 millions French Francs or about $508,000.[3]



  1. ^ a b c keyes, George S. (2004). Masters of Dutch Painting (1st ed.). Detroit: Detroit Institute of Arts. pp. 212–214. 
  2. ^ http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/grove/art/T074728?q=rachel+ruysch&search=quick&pos=1&_start=1#firsthit
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Rachel Ruysch". Encyclopedia.com. Encyclopedia of World Biography. Retrieved 29 October 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c Mitchell, Peter. "Ruysch, Rachel". oxfordartonline.com. Grove Art Online. Retrieved 29 October 2014. 
  5. ^ Chadwick, Whitney (1990). Women, Art, and Society (1st ed.). New York, NY: Thames and Hudson. p. 138. 
  6. ^ Alida Withoos and the Moninckx-atlases of the Amsterdam Hortus
  7. ^ a b c Rachel Ruysch in historici.nl
  8. ^ Renraw, R. "Art of Rachel Ruysch". EBSCOhost. Art Index Retrospective. 
  9. ^ Tufts, Eleanor (1974). Our Hidden Heritage: Five Centuries Of Women Artists (1st ed.). New York: Paddington Press. pp. 99–101. 

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