Celebrating Judith Leyster

Celebrating Judith Leyster

Celebrating Judith Leyster –  One could say painting came easel-y to Judith Leyster, a 17th-century master painter and a central figure in the Dutch Golden Age. However, misogyny and a forged signature caused art dealers to misattribute her paintings to male artists for decades. On this day in 2009, the National Gallery of Art and the Frans Hals Museum held exhibitions to rightfully honor her legacy. Today’s Doodle celebrates her work. 

Leyster, whose name means “lodestar” (a person or thing that serves as an inspiration or guide), was born in Haarlem in 1609. Although art historians know little about her formal education, rumor has it she showed remarkable talent at a young age. When poet Samuel Ampzing visited Haarlem to chronicle the city in 1628, he famously described 19-year-old Leyster as a painter of “good and keen insight.” 

At the time, professional female painters were rare in Europe. But Leyster never let this dissuade her. Using her spontaneous and free signature brushstrokes to capture everyday life, Leyster finished her first known painting, Serenade and Jolly Topper, in 1629. She signed with a distinct monogram: “J.L.” crossed by a star—a play on her last name. 

A few years after completing her first painting, Leyster became one of the first women admitted to Haarlem’s prestigious painters’ guild. During this time, she also set up her own studio and began taking in students. 

Leyster may have earned the respect of her peers and enjoyed financial success as an artist, but she was erased from history when art scholars later mistook her paintings as those of her male contemporaries’. 

In 1892, a keen observer finally noticed a star insignia on one of Leyster’s paintings in the Louvre and remarked that it did not match the signature of the male artist’s. This forced the artworld to reckon with their decades-long misattribution, allowing Leyster to reclaim her place in history. Scholarly detectives have since identified more than 30 Leyster masterpieces. Curious to see them? Among her known works, the most famous is a self-portrait turning to the viewer with a knowing smile. 

Curious to check out Leyster’s masterpieces? Art lovers can enjoy a collection of her work on Google Arts & Culture.


You can find more about Celebrating Judith Leyster on the official Google Doodle Page


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