To celebrate we’ll be
sharing, throughout the day, a number of artworks by women in the Ashmolean’s
A ‘Forest Floor’ Still Life of Flowers
Oil on canvas by Rachel Ruysch (1664–1750) Bequeathed
to the Ashmolean Museum by Daisy Linda Ward in 1939
Rachel Ruysch, according to the artist, was taught by
Willem van Aelst. From her studio in Amsterdam, she painted a long succession
of flower paintings, several fruit pieces and a number of 'forest floors’ of
which this is a relatively early example.
-Lukretia Wilhelmina van Merken, in honour of Rachel Ruysch’s oeuvre (1750)
On this International Women’s Day, I’d like to highlight some of my greatest heroes and inspirations: the women whose fantastic works shaped the Dutch Golden Age. The harmful and disrespectful notion that women artists didn’t exist in history (and if they did, they were never successful) persists to this day. I want to stress, desperately, that this is not so. Women’s labour throughout the ages has been tragically undervalued, and women’s art has been systematically pushed aside and labelled as “kitsch” and “craft” by those who would have women make nothing else.
Margareta de Heer, Clara Peeters, Rachel Ruysch and Maria van Oosterwijck were each very achieved artists, and their work was heavily sought after in their time. With the limitations set upon them by society - still life was the only form of painting a (wealthy) woman could do at the time - they built great careers and lasting legacies. Their love of the natural world shows in the beautiful, detailed way they depict it in their work, and if ever you are blessed with the opportunity to see any of it in real life, I strongly suggest you do so. They are the giants whose shoulders we stand on, and must never be forgotten.
Go, you happy rose, and bind the locks
Of my Apollinaris with gentle garlands;
And remember also to entwine them when
They have turned white- one day, I mean, not now!
And if you do this, may Venus love you always. I, felix rosa, mollibusque sertis
nostri cinge comas Apollinaris.
Quas tu nectere candidas, sed olim,
sic te semper amet Venus, memento.
Tulips and Roses on a Marble Table, attr. to Anna Ruysch, ca. 1700