Art in DC: female artists of the Dutch Golden Age

Albert Malhotra

Everyone knows that DC is packed with enjoyable and interesting types of art, but most people don’t know about The National Museum of Women in the Arts, located right on New York Avenue, between 12th and 13th Streets. This museum is full of interesting exhibits and a variety of art with different colors and subjects, all created by women—which is why this museum is important, though underrated. Although women have been making art throughout history, their work, when compared to that of their male counterparts, has been often obfuscated, overlooked, and undervalued. According to a group called Guerrilla Girls, less than 5% of the artists in modern art sections are women, but 85% of the nude sculptures at art museums are female. The obvious issue here is that women are objectified and not given their own voice. 

The main exhibit at the time of my recent visit was Women Artists of the Dutch Golden Age. This featured many artists from around the 1600s to the 1750s, such as Rachel Ruysch, Clara Peeters, and Judith Leyster. The Dutch Golden Age brought unprecedented economic growth to the Netherlands. At the time, the art market flourished in Amsterdam, giving women a chance to rise up and make a name for themselves. The exhibit examines the lives and works of several highly successful artists in the Netherlands during the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Unfortunately, these women have not been recognized in bigger art museums such as The National Gallery of Art. 

The art on display tackles a variety of subjects, from flowers to portraits to animals and more. There was abstract art, and then there was art that looked as realistic as a photograph. What is interesting is that every artist in the exhibit stayed on one path. For example, Judith Leyster stuck to painting people. Certain artists worked on just plants, or just sculptures—a fascinating part of the museum. The museum is so captivating because it recognizes a minority in the community of art, and shows why there should be equity in not only that world, but in everybody’s world. The thing is, the museum doesn’t show that with words or actions, it shows it in the beauty and power of their art. I highly recommend making the trip to this museum, it will not disappoint.