Vermaert Konstschilderesse



Maria van Oosterwijck

Still life painter

Nootdorp, August 27, 1630 – Uitdam, November 12, 1693

Maria van Oosterwijck was in the second half of the Golden Age, an acclaimed painter of still lifes. She reached the top of this genre of painting. During her life her paintings found their way to the royal collections in Europe.

Religious and artistic environment 

Maria van Oosterwijck was born in Nootdorp. In 1623 her father was appointed as a minister in this small village near Delft. Both her father, Jacobus van Oosterwijck, as his wife, Adriana van Linschoten, came from the VOC city of Delft. That city had in the thirties a thriving artistic climate. Maria was the third child in the family. The first child died soon after birth. The second child was born Geertruyt. Four years after the birth of Maria (1630), the family Van Oosterwijck graced with the birth of Lambertus. In 1636 Jacobus van Oosterwijck was appointed as a minister in Voorburg. He moved with his family and would continue to live and work there until his retirement in 1665. After the death of his first wife in 1636 Jacobus van Oosterwijck remarried in 1643 with Maria Jansdr. Cloetingh, a member of a major printer family in Delft.
The families Van Linschoten and Cloetingh had painters in their midst and maintained close contacts with other artists. So married Maria van Linschoten, an aunt of Maria van Oosterwijck, in 1637 with the widower Hendrick van Beijeren, the father of the famous still life painter Abraham van Beijeren. The marriage of Abraham van Beijeren and Anna van den Queborn, also still life painter, - Maria van Oosterwijck was 17 years old - may have been decisive for the development of Maria's talent, what talent, according to Houbraken, she already had as a young girl. 

The education of Maria van Oosterwijck in Delft, Leiden and Utrecht 

Who Maria van Oosterwijck taught the first principles of painting is uncertain. It is plausible that in the period between 1656 and 1658 her first studio facility was in the house of the father of her first mother on the Voorstraat in Delft, which was owned by Jacobus van Oosterwijck. In those days, also Abraham van Beijeren and Anna van de Queborn had their studio in Delft.
In 1658 Maria moved to Leiden, where she would live and work until 1660. Leiden was the center of painting still lifes. In that city lived her sister Geertruyt after her marriage to Johan van Assendelft.
From May 1660 Maria lived in Utrecht for about five years, where she was apprenticed to the flower and fruit still life painter Jan Davidsz de Heem. 

The flowering period in Amsterdam

In mid 1666 Maria van Oosterwijck moved to Amsterdam where she in the beginning went to work as an assistant to the still-life painter Willem van Aelst. Through him, she gained her first international recognition: on December 28, 1667 the Florentine prince Cosimo III de 'Medici ruled her in flower painting quality as good as the renowned Van Aelst. In those days came Geertje Pieters live with her to whom she gave drawing and painting lessons. Maria then devoted herself entirely to painting still lifes of flowers and fruits, which she sold for a good price outside the powerful guild of painters.
The sale of her painting "Vanitas with celestial globe" in the late sixties to Emperor Leopold I of Austria (now in the Vienna Historical Museum) was an international breakthrough. Weijerman described the appreciation of Leopold on this way: "Emperor Leopold and his wive (have) placed one of her artscenes in their art room; the painting has so high authenticated hurt them, that they have sent their portraits framed with diamonds at present." After purchasing a painting of her hand by Cosimo de 'Medici after his second trip to Holland in 1669, she had established herself. Contacts with national and international establishment may Maria also thanked to Constantijn Huygens, with whom she had a relationship from her childhood. Connoisseur Huygens expressed his high appreciation in a poem in 1677, when he said that Maria van Oosterwijck was so rare that he did not know her equal. The high earnings of Maria allowed her to live on the Keizersgracht, near Willem van Aelst. It made it possible to express her social commitment in 1675 and 1677 with her ability to guarantee the ransom of hostages in Algiers. They were sailors from Maassluis, where her brother Lambert was a mayor.

Marriage proposal 
There are no concrete signs that the relationship of Maria with Willem van Aelst went beyond friendship between two colleagues. But they worked closely together. Possibly saw Willem van Aelst, who about 1677 was still single and went to the fifty, in Maria - also single - an ideal companion and partner in business. Anyway, he made a marriage proposal. In that light, the following anecdote is described by Houbraken and Weyerman. The painting studios of Willem and Maria were close by and from there they could see and speak to each other. When Willem expressed to Maria that he wanted to marry her, Maria replied that she could decide to do so not as fast. She suggested that they would speak each other again on this request and that she would decide on his request and perhaps even answer his love on the condition that he would commit to paint in his studio every day from 7 am to 12 am during one year. Happened that the windows of his painting studio not would be opened at the agreed hours, and he, while Maria called to him, did not answer, she would draw a chalk line on the frame of her studio window. Because Maria knew William's work discipline very well and knew that he was frequently on the spree, she expected that he could not meet that condition. William accepted the condition anyway, but he could not accomplish. Weyerman writes: "When the year was up, there were so many chalk lines on the glass frame, as there are on the blackboard with guilts of an Antwerp inn, which is abundantly frequented by painters. That’s why Willem van Aalst renounced for good." That Maria and Willem van Aelst at that time lived near each other, is reflected in the documented fights in 1676 between the domestic help of Van Aelst and Maria.

Her paintings 

In her flower and fruit still lifes Maria processed sometimes religious symbols. She painted with great precision the color and size of hand-picked flowers. In those days were perishable flowers relatively rare and usually very expensive. That’s why Maria worked like many other painters at that time: first drawing and watercoloring and later painting in oil on canvas. The choice was often reinforced by ears and striped grass, where the influences of De Heem and Van Aelst are discernible. Many paintings are enlivened by butterflies and other insects or berries. On some of them Maria’s self-portrait is processed in a reflection on the glass vases, a detail that she took over from Abraham van Beijeren or William van Aelst. When many painters in the period between 1680 and 1690 financial difficulties had, proved appreciation for the work of Maria in full high, even in the highest European circles. Royal Houses continued to buy her work. 

The last years
In 1690 Maria van Oosterwijck retired at the age of sixty from the active world of painting. She went to Uitdam to live with her cousin Jacobus van Assendelft, the son of her sister Geertruyt. He was there in 1688 at age eighteen appointed to minister. Bosboom-Toussain suggests in her novel “The flower painter Maria van Oosterwijk” (1862) that she in the last years of her life “some little flowers painted on paper – with pencil or watercolor – for a pleasant pastime, and which time sweetly was going on", is not supported by any document. Three years later, on November 12, 1693, she died. Maria van Oosterwijck was buried in the local cemetery. Her tomb has not been preserved.

Further reading
For those who are interested in reading more on Maria, this was only a synopsis of the full biography which has been published (only in Dutch) on this website.

Please follow this link to see more.