When somebody says "Old Master", I instantly think of a whole slew of artists, but - guess what? - all men. Indeed, it's nearly startling to think of a woman belonging under that category. But Rachel Ruysch (along with Maria van Oosterwijk and Judith Leyster) was a significant painter in the Dutch Golden Age.
At fifteen, Ruysch (1664-1750) apprenticed with a prominent Delft painter. And at 29, she married a portrait painter, with whom she ten children. In 1701, she was inducted to the painters' guild in the Hague and she worked as a court painter in Dusseldorf. And although she won the lottery in 1723, she kept painting for her prominent clients.
Ruysch lived to the ripe age of 85 and her dated works establish that she painted from the time she was a young woman until she was an octogenarian. There's something about Ruysch's life that strikes me as thoroughly modern, without qualifications of time or geography. And, of course, I'm thoroughly inspired by the flower arrangements and dark backgrounds in her work.
Image credits: Rachel Ruysch painting via / Rachel Ruysch portrait via