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Netherlands • 1664−1750
Rachel Ruisch (niderl. Rachel Ruysch; June 3, 1664, The Hague - August 12, 1750, Amsterdam) - the master of flower still life in the Dutch golden era, the first woman accepted into the Artists Guild of The Hague.

Features of the artist Rachel Ruysh: For 65 years, she painted only floral still lifes. Understanding botany, she achieved amazing accuracy in depicting plants. In the 17th century, still lifes in Holland were at the peak of popularity - there were about a hundred artists who grazed on the lawn of this genre: Ruysch managed to find his own style, not get lost, become famous and earn a lot of money.

Famous paintings by Rachel Ruysh: "Roses, convict poppies and other flowers in a vase on a stone shelf", "Earth in the forest", "Fruits, flowers, reptiles and insects at the edge of the forest", "Bouquet in a glass vase".

Rachel was the first of 12 children of Frederick Ruysch, anatomist, scientist, restless person, who became the author of many scientific discoveries and lived 92 years, to certainly do everything he had planned.

Rachel was born in The Hague. When she was 3 years old, the family moved to Amsterdam. Her father was offered to teach anatomy to students and become the director of the newly founded botanical garden, Orthus Botanicus. Father deserves a separate chapter.

The father of the artist. Scandalous doctor and friend of Peter I

In the Ruysch family, young people had a choice - a career as a lawyer or doctor. For a start, Frederick Ruysch learned the skill of a pharmacist, but already at that time his guiding star was making itself felt - he became interested in anatomy. At the end of the 17th century, without being a physician, it was not easy to get access to the bodies of the dead, so the resourceful pharmacist made friends with the grave-diggers and studied the bodies right at the cemetery.

Over time, Frederic Ruysch became a doctor and a scientist - he proved the existence of valves in the lymphatic vessels, opened the vomeronasal organ in the nose (perhaps it is with its help that people catch the smell of pheromones), but his most famous discovery is a new way of embalming bodies: “I processed them with the help of my art of embalming in such a way that parts of the bodies would remain intact not for some fifty years, but for several centuries”.

Ruysch considered embalming an art, and anatomy a damnably attractive science, which is also useful for physicians and patients (1, 2). In order to popularize, attract intrigued spectators and unexpected faints, he opened a room in which he demonstrated his collections. A feature of his work was the creation of "anatomical still lifes" - for example, a heart enclosed in a glass vessel, next to which a twig or a flower swam in a secret solution; alcoholic babies with a smile, like sleeping; trees from blood vessels. He sincerely wondered (or pretended) when his works were called eerie and frightening, he himself considered them beautiful and "Affirming the victory of science over dying".

People from all over Europe came to Ruysch's "museum". In 1697, when he heard about this "eighth wonder of the world", the Russian Tsar Peter I came there. He immediately realized that he had found a kindred spirit and that he was facing the same restless and passionate lover of science. He attended the professor's lectures, had long secret conversations with him - they parted as good friends. A correspondence began between them and the transfer of all kinds of treasures - Frederick sent insects from India to the king and asked him to send "Butterflies and snakes from Azov, different animals and fish".

The collection grew and already occupied five rooms, and once Ruysch decided to attach his creation to reliable, kind and, most importantly, solvent hands. In 1716 he sold his collection to Peter I for huge money - 30,000 guilders. Ruysch prepared to send his work, which collected 50 years: 2000 jars of drugs on human anatomy, 1179 samples of mammals, reptiles and insects, 259 birds, canned dry, 2 cases with a herbarium and many boxes with butterflies, sea animals and shells. This collection became the basis of the Museum of the Kunstkamera in St. Petersburg. Some works by Frederick still preserved.

Such a man was the father of the artist Rachel Ruysch, purposeful, persistent, pragmatic and always looking for something new that can please an inquiring mind.

Discovery of talent and teacher legend Willem van Aalst

The artistic talent of his daughter Rachel Frederick Ruysch noticed when she helped him in the design of herbaria - made sketches. It quickly became clear that Rachel was very good at portraying flowers, plants, all sorts of small reptiles and insects.

She was 14 years old, she was pious, rich, the ghost of marriage did not disturb her bright head, and it was decided to develop a talent! At that time it looked a bit strange and, perhaps, scandalous, but in the family, where the museum with “anatomical still-life” occupies half the house, other rules were in force. And again the light of a guiding star - the family lived on the Flower Channel, and their neighbor was the famous artist, the master of still life Willem van Aalst. Just in case, two daughters were given for training at once, in the hope that younger Anna will also have abilities.

Rachel was very attentive and persistent. Van Aalst taught her to give volume and liveliness to the colors in the picture, to arrange them in such a way as to give the impression of lightness and creative disorder.

Until the teacher's death in 1683, Rachelle honed her talent and found new methods of plant imaging. And, perhaps, even then it became clear that she would not give up painting, like many ladies from high society. At the age of 18, she began to sign her paintings, she was immediately called “the child prodigy from Holland” and “our delicate heroine of art”.

At that time, “aspiration for nature” reigned in Holland: the inhabitants of the cities planted vegetable gardens, planted plants, and laid out gardens and parks. The country has become the largest importer of new and exotic plants from around the world. Flowers, in which they had previously only seen medicinal properties, began to be valued for beauty and fragrance. Motley or very popular "Flaming" tulips with stripes of contrasting colors on the petals. In fact, the color was caused by a virus and the life of these flowers was short, which made them even more valuable and desirable in the eyes of the Dutch.

Ruysh with her knowledge of botany and a rigorous approach to painting corresponded to the general mood of the country, and this made her popular.

Successful family union of still lifes and portraits

At the age of 29, Rachel married a portrait painter Jurida Paul. He was a year younger than his wife, but he had already managed to sip grief and despair. His father and mother died early and he spent some time at the shelter. His paintings have survived to the present day, including self-portraitwhere he depicted himself in "orphan" clothes - in a red jacket in blue sleeves. Now in the building of his former shelter is the Historical Museum of Amsterdam, where you can see this canvas. In addition to painting, he was engaged in the trade in lace and was close to the court.

In the Ruysch-Pol family, 10 children were born, three died immediately, and four more - in adolescence and young age. Rachelle continued to write always, even in the most difficult periods of her life. One day Yuridan Paul lost the favor of the court, and this significantly reduced income. The money the artist received for her work made her the breadwinner of the family.

Success! All at the feet of Rachel - the royal court, collectors and poets

In 1701, Rachel became the first woman painter, adopted by the fraternity of artists The Hague. The next step in a creative career is the position of court painter Johann Wilhelm, the Elector of the Palatinate of Palatinate, from 1708 to 1716. He was an ardent admirer of art and a caring employer — he freed Rachel from being at the court in Düsseldorf, and she still lived in Amsterdam. She was paid a scholarship and, under the terms of cooperation, she painted one painting a year for the elector's collection.

In addition to remote court work, Rachel had his own agent, and she received orders for paintings from foreign collectors.

And in 1723 Rachel intervened in the life of a happy occasion. She won 75,000 guilders in the Lottery of the Northern Netherlands - a huge amount, she decided to solve all financial problems of the family.

At that time, the artist's husband and her sister, Anna, abandoned the painting; Ruysch herself no longer needed work to feed her family. But, being the daughter of her father, she found the secret of longevity in permanent work.

Last picture Rachel signed in 1747 year. The artist was 83, she was widowed, only her three sons survived. And then she stopped writing, 65 years after the first experiments. In the year of her death she was presented with a gift - a collection of poems about her work “Poems for the beautiful artist-craftswoman Rachel Ruysch”. She became the first painter in Holland to receive this honor.

Of the 250 well-known canvases of Ruysh, only about a hundred paintings have survived to our time. Like the work of her father, they amaze even after several centuries.

Author: Alexandra Berezhnaya
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