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Paintbrush Princesses - Painting as a profession

The research project Paintbrush Princesses & Professional Paintresses began in 2008. The purpose of this thorough art-historical research, conducted jointly by the RKD, Het Loo Palace and The Mesdag Collection, is to turn the spotlight on the 1100 women artists active in Holland in the nineteenth century. Over the next few months the results of the investigation will be presented in a publication, an exhibition at two venues, as well as in RKD databases. In our current vitrine display you can see a selection of material from the RKD collections which relates to the professional practice of women artists of the period.

Women artists had to make sure their profession was compatible with their position in society. They were expected, first and foremost, to be helpful daughters who would grow up into dedicated wives and loving mothers. It could be difficult to combine running a household and the bringing up of children with being a practising artist. Having the support and encouragement of one’s family or husband made all the difference when building up a professional practice. The large number of women artists active in the nineteenth century demonstrates, however, that it was possible for women to pursue an artistic career without forfeiting their position in society.

The Dutch art world offered women reasonably good opportunities to establish themselves as professional artists. There were numerous exhibitions in which they could participate and they could also expect to benefit from a thriving art trade. The profession offered women an opportunity to support themselves, and perhaps their families, at a time when it was still unusual for them to be earning.

You can read more about the professional practice of women artists in Penseelprinsessen & Broodschilderessen. Vrouwen in de beeldende kunst 1808-1913 (Paintbrush Princesses & Professional Paintresses. Women in the fine arts 1808-1913), which is on sale in the RKD Shop. There is also an opportunity to see the work of women artists in part two of the exhibition ‘Paintbrush princesses’. From 30 May to 26 August The Mesdag Collection turns the spotlight on the many professional artists who were active in the nineteenth century. An exhibition at Het Loo Palace, earlier this year, focused on women artists who worked in and around the Dutch court at the time.

You can find more information and activities at: www.penseelprinsessen.nl 

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