Judith Leyster, Self Portrait, c. 1633
Judith Leyster is pretty awesome. Not only was she a female painter during a time period that didn’t favor women, she was the first ever female to become a master in a Dutch guild, an incredibly high honor. After studying with Frans Hals, Leyster created this painting, considered by many to be her masterpiece, possibly for entrance into a guild. Leyster depicts herself as an artist, and proud of her profession; she documents herself painting in a straightforward way, with her creative hand in the center of the composition. The fiddler in the painting mimics her gesture; infrared technology showed that Leyster originally planned a merry company to be shown on the easel, but she changed it, possibly because she was most well known for that subject matter and wanted to show off her more varied abilities. Leyster incorporates many aspects that Hals taught her, including loose brushstrokes, a spontaneous quality, and a simple backdrop. However, Leyster ended up suing Hals because she claimed that he had taken a pupil away from her. After she married, Leyster largely gave up painting, and only about 30 works of hers have survived.