National Museum of Women in the Arts
Judith Leyster
circa July 28 1609 - circa February 10 1660
Judith Leyster, Self-Portrait, ca.1630. Oil on canvas. 29 x 26 inches (74.5 x 66 cm). National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, USA. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Woods Bliss. (c) Board of Trustees, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, USA
Place of Birth:
Phonetic Spelling:
YOO-diht (L-EYE)-sterr
Work Type/Media:
Artistic Role(s):
Genre Painter, Painter, Portraitist, Still life Painter
Artist's Biography:
One of the only two female members of the painters’ guild in her native Haarlem, Judith Leyster was an independent Dutch artist with her own workshop and pupils. As the eighth child of a brewer and cloth maker, Leyster’s career almost ended before it began when her father was forced to declare bankruptcy in 1624. There are no records of her artistic education, but by the time she was eighteen Leyster was already mentioned favorably in a book about culture in Haarlem.

Her work was clearly influenced by the content and style of genre paintings created by the noted Haarlem artists Frans and Dirck Hals. Like them, Leyster had a talent for painting lively scenes of people enjoying themselves in taverns, playing music, and the like. Such subjects were very popular with Holland’s newly prosperous middle class, the principal buyers of contemporary Dutch art.

Leyster produced most of her paintings between ca. 1629 and 1635; her artistic output decreased dramatically after her marriage in 1636 to the painter Jan Miense Molenaer. The couple soon moved to Amsterdam and had at least five children. In addition to raising the children, Leyster may have managed the family’s business and properties; she probably also assisted with her husband’s art. By 1649 the family was back in Haarlem, where Leyster spent the remainder of her life.

Although well known during her lifetime, Leyster and her work were largely forgotten after her death until 1893, when a painting acquired by the Louvre was found to have Leyster’s distinctive monogram (her initials entwined with a five-pointed star) hidden under a false signature reading “Frans Hals.” This discovery led to renewed research and appreciation of Leyster’s oeuvre, which had previously been confused with that of Hals. A 1993 retrospective exhibition of Leyster’s paintings and the related research have helped restore this painter to her proper place in art history.

Other Occupation(s):
Place(s) of Residence:
Where Trained/Schools:
Private lessons, Haarlem, Netherlands (ca. 1627-1635)
Related Visual Artists:
wife of Jan Miense Molenaer student of Frans Pieter de Grebber student of Dirck Hals student of Frans Hals teacher of Willem Wouters teacher of Hendrick Jacobsz teacher of Davit de Burrij colleague of Sara van Baalbergen colleague of Maria de Grebber
Fellowships, grants and awards:
Elected Member, Haarlem Guild of Painters, Haarlem, Netherlands (1633)
Earliest exhibition:
not applicable
NMWA exhibition(s):
Judith Leyster: 'Leading Star'
Artist retrospective(s):
Judith Leyster: 'Leading Star', National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC, USA (1993-1994) Judith Leyster (1609-1660): A Dutch Master and Her World, Frans Halsmuseum, Haarlem, Netherlands and Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, MA, USA (1993)
Related places
Heemstede (died at)
The Concert, ca. 1633
The Concert