11 Quick Facts
- Born in Haarlem, Netherlands 1609
- Her father bought a bar in 1618 called it Ley-Ster
- Judith used the bars name meaning The North Star as a pseudonym
- Studies in Frans Peter de Grebber's studio
- Was one of the first women to enter a Guild
- She had her own studio with 3 students
- Judith sued Frans Hals for stealing one of her students
- Married the artist Jan Miense Molenaer
- Had 5 children: 3 boys and 2 girls
- Her artist career lasted 7 years (Walter Liedtke, 1993, p.856)
- Died on February 10, 1660 (50 years old)
Judith Leyster was born in 1609 in Haarlem, Netherland to the parents of Jan Wilemsz and Trjin Jasper. Not much of Judith’s early life was recorded. We think that she started practicing art at a young age. Her father, Trjin, bought a bar in 1618 and named in Ley-Ster which means The North Star. Judith began using Leyster as a pseudonym around 1618. When she was younger her family moved to Vreeland which is close to Utrecht, many believe that she was influenced by Utrecht Caravaggisti because of the move. Samuel Ampzing gave Judith, 19 at the time, an honorable mention in his Description of Haarlem and noted her as one of the important artists of Haarlem. A lot of her works evolved around every day scenarios, still lifes, portraits, and many had present moralistic themes. As she got older she moved back to Haarlem leaving her family in Vreeland.
Judith studied in the studio of Frans Peter de Grebber who was a well- known traditional painter who specialized in portraiture. As she continued her own career the painter Frans Hals became an inspiration. Eventually her and Hal’s shared a studio. After becoming one of the first women to enter Haarlem’s Saint Luke Guild she had her own studio with three students. According to the author, Jordi Vigue of Great Women Masters of Art, Judith successfully sued Hals for breach of ethics when he took one of her students. Some say that there was a little rivalry between Han’s and Judith. They both had a similar yet unique style and because of the time period men were viewed as being more superior to women, so Judith’s work did not get the same recognition as Hal’s even though it was just as good if not better.
In 1636 Judith married the painter Jan Miense Molenaer and they moved to Amsterdam. Judith’s painting career slowed down and came to a stop once her and her husband had their first child. Some believe that once she got married she focused on becoming a housewife and eventually raising five children. It wasn’t until after her death (1660) that Judith’s artwork became famous. It was during the last half of the 19th century that she was re-discovered. With the help of her monogram/signature we have been able to find more pieces that Judith created. “In 1893 a painting titled “The Duet” was the cause of a lawsuit in England. It had been sold at a high figure as a Hals ans was rediscovered to be a Leyster” (Frieda van Emden, 1918, p501). The painting had documentation stating it was Hal’s for over two hundred years. This goes to show that Judith Leyster’s abilities were very professional and expertise, many thought Judith’s work was Hal’s because he was a famous male artist of that time period. It is a shame that she did not receive the recognition and fame she deserved when she was alive and painting masterpieces.
Characteristics of Judith's Work
- From what we know her monogram is signed on all her pieces
- Her monogram is the letters "J,L" with a star
- Typically her works are portraits
- Her understanding of light and texture is conveyed in a stunning and extraordinary way considering the time period
- Has a controlled loose technique, contrast between brushstrokes and paint
- Works are classified in the Baroque and Dutch Golden Age Periods
Judith Leyster's Art