Women on Paper is an exhibition about women who have made their mark on art history. Work by a selection of women artists from the Rijksmuseum collection has been brought together in five rooms in different parts of the museum. The works include drawings, prints and photographs by Gesina ter Borch, Berthe Morisot, Käthe Kollwitz and Julia Margaret Cameron. There are also recent acquisitions by Cornelia de Rijck and Thérèse Schwartze. Women on Paper is the result of a long-term study to take stock of work by women artists in the Rijksmuseum collection and create a more balanced representation in the collection and exhibition.
The world of art on paper is populated by many women artists. Women often used to be educated within the family, and as with other professions, the production and publishing of prints was often a family business. Printmakers Diana Mantuana and Barbara van den Broeck developed into independent and enterprising engravers, and the fifteenth- and sixteenth-century print cabinet is dedicated to their work. The display in the seventeenth-century cabinets centres on the work of Magdalena de Passe and Gesina ter Borch. De Passe, like her three brothers, was trained as an engraver, and her work was highly regarded. Ter Borch came from an artistic family and devoted her life to art. On display are watercolours characterised by originality, humour and beauty, alongside highly personal poems, writing and drawings by Ter Borch and her family. The display in the eighteenth-century print cabinet focuses on flora and fauna, with watercolours by artists including Dorothea Maria Graff and Alida Withoos, whose precise and colourful work was an important contribution to the developing natural sciences. Their travels took them to a wide range of destinations, as far afield as Suriname.
The final print room focuses on the nineteenth century, with work by artists including Thérèse Schwartze, Lizzy Ansingh, Julia Margaret Cameron and Eva Watson-Schütze. In the early 19th century, an exhibition circuit arose for drawings and pastels, through which many women artists achieved recognition and commercial success. The advent of photography brought another art form that was embraced by women for its many artistic possibilities.