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Frans Hals

Frans Hals (approx.1580 - 1666) was a Dutch painter. He lived almost his entire life in Haarlem.

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His Work

Frans Hals is most famous for his portraits, mainly of rich citizens. He also painted large group portraits, many of which showed civil guards. He was a Baroque painter, with intimate realism and a radical approach.

He changed the face of portraiture for centuries to come. His form of painting revealed both a realistic depiction of the subject and an insight into the psyche of the subject. The portraits capture the portrayed in a split-second moment, what you would see of the person in an everyday occurrence.

The portrayals of his subjects are also comical. The characters are no longer in a dignified, urbane pose, but instead are informal and caught in the picture without knowing it.

In group portraits, such as the Archers of St. Hadrian, Hals captures each character in a different manner. The faces are not idealized and clearly distinguishable, and their personalities are revealed in the variety of poses and facial expressions.

From 1620 till 1640 Frans painted many double portraits of married couples, on separate panels, the man on the left panel, his wife at his right. Only once did Frans portray a couple on one canvas: Double Portrait of a Couple, (circa 1623, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam).

His style changed throughout his life. Vivid colours were gradually replaced by pieces where one colour dominated. Later in his life darker tones, even with lots of black, began to take over. His brush strokes became looser in later years, fine details became less important than an overall impression. Also where his earlier pieces radiated gaiety and liveliness, his later portraits emphasized the stature and dignity of the people portrayed. This austerity is amply displayed in Regentesses of the Old Men's Alms House (Frans Hals Museum, c. 1664),

A large collection of his work is at display in the Frans Hals Museum[?] in Haarlem.

His Life

Frans was born around 1580 in Antwerp. In 1585, after Antwerpen had fallen to the Spaniards1 the family moved to Haarlem in the Northern Low Countries. Frans would stay there his whole life.

Frans took painting lessons from the Flemish painter Karel van Mander (1548-1606), who also had fled from the Spaniards, but his ideas left no visible trail in Frans' work. The earliest work that we know of dates from 1611: Jacobus Zaffius (Frans Hals Museum - Haarlem). His 'breakthrough' came in 1616, with the life-size group portrait The Banquet of the Officers of the St George Militia Company (Frans Hals Museum).

Although Frans' work was in high demand throughout his life, his financial situation was worrysome most of the time. His creditors brought him to court several times. The fact that he had ten children to feed, two from his first wive Annetje Harmensdochter Abeel, eight from his second wife Lysbeth Reyniers, serves at least as a partial explanation. Since his painting did not earn him enough money, Frans doubled as an art dealer and restaurator.

Frans Hals died in 1666 and was buried in the St. Bavo Church in Haarlem.

1This was during the Eighty Years War, a war between the Low Countries and Spain which lasted from 1586 till 1648.

Influence

Frans greatly influenced his brother Dirck Hals (1591-1656) who was also a painter. Also four of his sons followed in his path and became painter:

Other contemporary painters that took inpsiration from Frans Hals:

  • Jan Miense Molenaer (1609-1668) and his wife Judith Leyster (1609-1660), Haarlem
  • Adriaen van Ostade (1610-1685), Haarlem
  • Adriaen Brouwer (1605-1638), South Low Countries
  • Johannes Cornelisz Verspronck (1597-1662), Haarlem
  • Bartholomeus van der Helst (1613-1670), Amsterdam

His reputation waned after his death. Starting at the middle of the 19th century his fame rose again. From 1870 to 1920 his paintings served as a model for portrait painters. Impressionism also owed him. The French painter Edouard Manet was profoundly influenced by Frans Hals. Many of his paintings were then sold to rich American collectors, who appreciated his uncritical attitude towards wealth and status.

See also Dutch Golden Age

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