The man who laughs and the woman who cannot laugh: The DONG-A ILBO
Victor Hugo said: “The harder life is, the more laughter it needs. The Dutch painter Judith Leyster, who lived 200 years earlier, must have thought the same. A painting she drew when she was 20 depicts a laughing man. Given that portraits of laughing subjects were rare, one wonders why the painter drew a man laughing out loud.
Judith Leyster is a painter from the Dutch Golden Age. Born in Haarlem as the eighth child of a local brewer, Leyster began drawing after her father’s bankruptcy. Her artistic ability caught people’s attention when she was 19 years old. Judith became the first woman to join the Haarlem Guild of St. Luke and began working as a career artist. This painting is the first that Leyster signed with his full name. A man in a clumsy feathered hat is a comedy jester that was popular in the painter’s day. A clown laughs to make others laugh, but that doesn’t mean the clown laughs for himself. He may laugh on the outside but cry on the inside. The easiest way to comfort yourself is to have a drink. Holding an empty bottle and wearing red cheeks and nose, the man appears to be heavily intoxicated. An empty bottle means the show is over.
In her time when women were not allowed to take regular artistic training or have a professional career, Leyster had to work hard to make a name for herself in the artistic community dominated by male artists and to gain clients. His life must have been hard. A young female artist might have envied a clown who could laugh out loud, uninhibited, and maybe that’s why she drew a drunken, laughing clown.
This painting seems to have been influenced by the drawings of a virtuoso and contemporary of Frans Hals, who worked in the same city. Leyster might have dreamed of being as successful as Hals. Unfortunately, his aspiration did not materialize. After marrying, she rarely drew paintings as she raised five children, and her name was completely forgotten after her death. His brilliant works were falsely attributed to Frans Hals until the end of the 19th century.