Is this news something to feel good about? A frontpage story at ArtNet News is gleefully headlined, “For the First Time Ever, the Rijksmuseum Will Hang Works by Female Dutch Masters in Its Most Prestigious Gallery.”

Late in the day

The Rijksmuseum has been open since 1885 intent on telling the 800-year story of Dutch history. Only now is it opting to hang female Dutch Masters on its “prestigious” walls? This special space, graced with churchlike vaulted ceiling, is known as the Gallery of Honor where works like Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch” are featured.

Working mothers

Along with the usual Dutch Old Master, now, at last, you also get the art of 17th century artists Judith Leyster, who painted large-scale figures, and Rachel Ruysch, who pictured still life’s that never look still. Besides working as artists, each was a mother of several children, 15 and 10, respectively.

Hanging with Rembrandt in the Gallery of Honor Leyster and Ruysch bring to mind former Texas governor Ann Richards saying that while Fred Astaire got top billing, his dance partner Ginger Rogers did everything he did backwards and in high heels.

Delayed reaction

Wait, there’s more. Sarah Cascone, senior writer for ArtNet News reports that only now is the Rijksmuseum starting a research project to find overlapped female artists.

Waiting 136 years to do the right thing is hardly a bragging right.

Why now? Rijksmuseum curator Jenny Reynolds told ArtNet News, she celebrated International Women’s Day by adding in female artists.

Rewriting history

As Cascone reminds those who need reminders, the way art business has been conducted has to change. Which means you can no longer keep female artists on the sidelines or, as history reveals, neither can you give credit for their work to theirteachers, fathers or husbands.

Reynold gets it. Making female artists less visible than male artists has got to stop. Now, she has a chance to rectify the situation/ The Rijksmuseum assigned her to head up the research project to identify female artists who contributed to art history in the Netherlands.

Doing the right thing

And the first order of business is to add female painters to the Gallery of Honor.

How many are in storage at the Rijksmuseum? Here’s stat worth noting: 158 of the museum’s 7,173 paintings are painted by women.

The irony here is that while the Rijksmuseum ignored female artists, both Ruysch and Leyster were art stars in their time. As Reynolds pointed out, “Leyster was the first female master painter in the 17th century” and “Ruysch’s work was sought after by all the courts of Europe.”

Final solution

Art News offered additional reporting on this story, quoting the director of the Rijksmuseum, Taco Dibbits, telling the Spanish daily newspaper El Pais how the Amsterdam treasure house finally decided to install paintings by female artists in its Gallery of Honor: He said that his staff began questioning their choices and provide a bigger picture of Netherlands art history. Welcome to the world, Rinksmuseum. What took you so long?