Natural Beauties: Rachel Ruysch

Since the very earliest examples of art people have sought to capture the beauty of the natural world.

One of the things we've always loved about nature, and flowers in particular, is the fleeting, transient and ever-changing nature of their beauty. With each day comes a new surprise - tightly packed flower bud, to unfurling leaf fronds, to big blousy blooms with a fuzzy haze of pollen, to the delicate translucency of faded petals - we love it all.

In tribute to this, we are starting a series of blog pieces on the artists who have immortalised nature in their work, and where better to start than with some of the art that has inspired Grace & Thorn right from the off? 

Rachel Ruysch was a Dutch still-life painter who specialised in flowers and is probably the best documented woman painter of the time (unsurprisingly, a bit of a rarity).

Born in 1664 in The Hague, Ruysch was the daughter of an anatomist and botanist. Thanks to her folks, she was immersed in studying the natural world from a very early age and it became clear very early in her life that she had a real knack of capturing it in paint. She became the apprentice of a prominent flower painter in Amsterdam when she was just 15 years old, who not only taught her paint, but also how to arrange flowers to look natural and spontaneous in a vase (sound familiar?) so she capture them in her paintings.

By just 18 years old she was able to set up her own studio and soon established herself as one of the foremost flower painters in the Netherlands. Her clientele included nobility from across Europe, such as Italy's famed Medici family and the Prince of Bavaria. In her lifetime, her works were fetching more money than Rembrandt's (heard of him?). In short, this gal was killing it.

Practicing the arts wasn't uncommon for women of the time, but they were generally expected (especially after marriage) to practice the more traditional and restrained crafts of sewing and spinning, but Ruysch took no heed of this expectation and carried on her work as a painter even after her marriage to fellow painter Juriaen Pool (refreshingly, best known as Rachel's husband). The pair would go on to have 10 children, but this didn't slow her down - Ruysch continued to rake it in with her paintings, and would continue to be successful and paint right into her 80s.

When she died aged 86, a grand total of eleven poets wrote poems about her in tribute to her life and work, and her work remained popular even though artistic tastes were changing.

She's our new hero.  

Want to have a go at crafting your own masterpiece? Check out our dates for The Master Class!

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