Christine de Pizan

Christine de Pizan
The Writer Christine de Pizan at Her Desk

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Alida Withoos, Botanical Illustrator

Alida Withoos, painter (buried 5 December 1730)

Alida Withoos, probably born about the year 1661, was the fourth child (and second daughter) of Matthias Withoos, a Dutch painter, and his wife, Wendelina van Hoorn.

Alida Withoos, persian poppy,
image from ArtNet
The family lived in Amersfoort, a city in the province of Utrecht (the Netherlands) where Alida was born, but in 1672, when the French invaded, the family relocated to Hoorn, her mother's place of birth.

Matthias Withoos trained his children as artists--in addition to Alida, Johannes, Pieter, Frans, and Maria all became artists. (Little is known about the work of Maria.)

Trained by her father, Alida Withoos nevertheless attained some recognition in her own name. She was one of the artists commissioned by the botanist, art collector, and patron, Agnes Block, to work on her estate, Vijverhof (where, in 1687, she is said to have painted the first pineapple bred in Europe). There she worked with other women botanical artists, including Maria Sybilla Merian and her daughter Johanna Helena Herolt-Graf.

Alida Withoos also contributed to the Moninckx Atlas, a nine-volume "botanical album" of 420 watercolor studies of the plants in Amsterdam's famed garden, the Hortus Medicus. While the majority of the illustrations were done by Jan Moninckx and his daughter, Maria Moninckx, Alida Withoos contributed twelve of the images. 

On 31 January 1701, Alida Withoos, then thirty-nine years old, married the painter Andries Cornelisz van Dalen. (Her age was recorded at the time of her marriage, thus suggesting the year of her birth.)

Although she lived until 1730, no work by Alia Withoos is known to have been completed after 1700. She may have stopped painting after her marriage, though she may also have continued to work in some capacity in the workshop of her husband's family. 
Alida Withoos, columbine,
image from ArtNet

For the best information available online, I recommend Liesbeth Missel's biographical essay in the Digital Vrouwenlexicon of the Netherlands; to access, click here.

As an excellent resource for viewing her work, I suggest the online gallery at ArtNet; click here.

One of my most frequently cited sources for information about women artists is Germaine Greer's The Obstacle Race: The Fortunes of Women Painters and Their Work. Greer refers to Withoos briefly in the context of women and still-life painting, "flower painting," and botanical illustration in her chapter, "Still Life and Flower Painting" (227-49)--I highly recommend it!

Update, 12 January 2023: A helpful friend of the blog has just forwarded information about a recent  exhibition at the Mauritshuis, "In Full Bloom," featuring floral still-life paintings, including those by Alida Withoos. For information about the exhibition itself (February to June 2022), this link to the Mauritshuis is still working, and though it is too late now to see the paintings in person, there are a couple of great videos. You may also like this review of the exhibition from ArtNet.

And here's a link, forwarded by the same friend, to Catherine Powell's recent essay on Withoos published at ArtHerstory,  "Alida Withoos: Creator of Beauty and of Visual Knowledge."