Maria Van Oosterwyck was not the daughter of an artist, and was not born into
a very wealthy family. Her father was a Dutch minister who encouraged her
to pursue her dreams of becoming an artist. Van Oosterwyck chose to remain single
throughout her life, so that she could focus on her career. This fact is
proven when Willem Van Aelst who was a painter was trying to court Maria.
She had agreed to consider his proposal for marriage, if he would stop courting
her for one year, paint in his own studio for ten hours a day, every day for
that year. He bought a studio across from hers where she could keep track
of his work habits. Willem did not meet the stipulations, so Maria turned
down his proposal and would continue living the single life.
Maria Van Oosterwyck is said to have been born in 1630 in Nootdorp, Holland,
near the city of Delft. The exact date of her birth is not certain.
Maria worked in Delft, where she faced a unique problem, being a single woman
who was an artist, attempting to find an assistant. The young men of
that era would rather work with a male artist, and there were very few young
women whose families would have allowed them to do the work required of an
assistant. Maria found a unique way to solve this problem. She would
train her maidservant in the skills required of an assistant and eventually
taught her to paint. Geertje Pieters, her maidservant, soon gained the
skills to begin selling her own paintings.
Maria belonged to an elite crowd whose earnings from her art painting put her
in the top income bracket for artists in Holland. She would earn more than
a hundred guilders for each one of her paintings.
In 1666, Maria was said to have lent money to the Van Stralen sisters who
lived in Delft. In 1675, she donated large sums of money in order to free
three sailors who had been imprisoned by Algerian pirates and were being held
Maria would remain active in the art world in Delft through 1689.
Her clients were used to lavish items and would pay greatly for her art work.
It is said that Louis XIV purchased one of her flower paintings. The
Emperor Leopold, the King of Poland, and William III of England heard of her
artworks being purchased by Louis XIV and would soon follow suit purchasing her
artworks for their very own art collections. Maria was showered with
extravagant gifts and was given great honors by royalty, who would pay large
sums for her artwork, in spite of her great success in Delft, where she
was the only female painter to gain status as a professional during that
She was not allowed to be a member in the Guild of Delft or Amsterdam.
Female painters were not allowed to enroll in the Guild, although they did play
a role in producing paintings that sold for lower prices. Female painters
were employed by the Guild to peddle their paintings as well as other artist's
paintings on the street. However, Maria gained the position of a highly
paid amateur artist in the Guild even though she was really painting at a
Maria's carefully composed compositions were set against a dark background
and were dramatically contrasted with brightly colored flowers that would often
include a sunflower, which would appear towards the top of the floral arrangement. She would use bouquets that would include specific flowers
such as a tulip or sunflower that were typical of the flowers found in the 17th
Maria was best known for her flower paintings, but also painted vanitas¹.
In fact, her earliest known painting is titled "The Vanitas", which is dated in
1668. She had included symbolic objects that were often seen in these
types of paintings and like the artist Clara Peeters; she would sometimes sign
her work with a reflective self-portrait.
Maria would paint until she died at age 63. In spite of the fact that
she painted until her death, her production was limited because she would work
very slowly and meticulously, while building up the surface of each one of her
Maria died in 1693 after a long productive career of painting such objects
- Musical Instruments
- Most notably, flowers
You can view her painting titled "Flowers and Shells" here: http://tinyurl.com/65pbl
¹ Vanitas Depicts "objects" that are luxurious and/or on the verge
of decay, such as fruit, flowers, coins, and beautiful women admiring themselves
in the mirror.
More information on other lesser known female artists can be
Source: Women And The Art World. 2nd
ed. : Alpine Publishers, 1971.
Image Source: http://reisserbilder.at