Judith Leyster

The work and life of Judith Leyster, 1609 – 1660

Judith Leyster was born in Haarlem in July 1609 as the 8th child of Jan Willemsz (weaver from Antwerp) and Trein Jaspersdr. She was baptized on July 28 in the Grote Kerk in Haarlem. Her father owned the Leystar brewery, probably that is also the reason for the surname.

In 1628 the family moved to Vreeland in the province of Utrecht, then to Zaandam a year later. Whether Judith has lived there is not known, but it is more likely that Judith has returned to Haarlem. Judith was a pupil of Fransz Pietersz de Grebber and probably also of Frans Hals. In 1631 she was present as a witness to the marriage of one of the children of Frans Hals. A number of Judith’s paintings were also attributed to Frans Hals. Her first signed work dates from 1631.

The work of Judith

Judith’s work is widely praised and is referred to by a well-known poet from Haarlem as a “forceful painter”. Judith Leyster works a lot with light and dark and has a loose brushwork. The facial expressions in her paintings are very expressive. Judith is a genre painter, i.e. a painter who makes representations from everyday life or surroundings.

Judith was the only woman in the 17th century to join the Sint Lucasgilde in Haarlem in 1633 and then became a master painter, allowing her to open her own studio and take on pupils. She opens her studio in the Korte Barteljorissstraat in Haarlem.

On June 1636 Judith married the Heemsteedse portrait painter Jan Miense Molenaer and started working in his studio. Judith doesn’t paint much anymore, or at least no longer under her own name. She still makes studies of nature and still lifes. Judith is too busy with her 5 children and the business interests of her husband in the art trade and their homes in Amsterdam, Haarlem and Heemstede.

In 1659 Judith became ill, died at the beginning of 1660 and was buried on 10 February 1660 in Heemstede.

A masterpiece by Judith Leyster on your wall?

Do you want one of Judith Leyster’s masterpieces on your wall? Take a look at her paintings and choose your favourite painting in the desired size.