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Spring Tulips Inspired by Judith Leyster

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Judith Leyster was born on July 28 in 1609.  She is one of the few female artists of the seventeenth century to have emerged from obscurity. Among her known works are portraits, genre paintings, and still lifes common in the Dutch Baroque period.  She is best known for her happy scenes of couples, families, and Dutch social life, with her subjects singing, dancing, and enjoying themselves.

In the late 1630’s, a strange phenomenon occurred in the Netherlands, which had been brewing for a number of years.   It became known as Tulpenwoede (tulip madness) which saw the price of tulip bulbs rocketing.  In some cases, one of these bulbs was worth the cost of a large Amsterdam house.  Many people, who watched the rising value of the tulip bulb, wanted part of the action.  People used their life savings and other assets were cashed in to get money to invest in these bulbs, all in the belief and expectation that the price of tulip bulbs would continue to rise and they would suddenly become rich. Alas, by the end of February 1637 the price of a tulip bulb had crashed and many people lost their savings.

However the rising value of the tulip bulb came as a boon to floral artists.  If people could not afford the actual tulips for their gardens or pots the next best thing was to have a painting of them and even better still would be to have a book full of beautiful depictions of different tulips.   Judith Leyster realised that the public’s love of tulips could be advantageous for her and she produced her own book of tulips.

Students used palette knives and acrylic paint to create their dramatic background. Next a variety of techniques were used to paint their tulips. Our classrooms were filled with visions of spring!

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