World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Frans Hals

Article Id: WHEBN0000046089
Reproduction Date:

Title: Frans Hals  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Rijksmuseum, Royal Collection, Timeline of art, Frans Hals, Tronie
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Frans Hals

Frans Hals
Copy of a self-portrait by Frans Hals.
Born Frans Hals
c. 1580
Died 26 August 1666 (aged 85–86)
Nationality Flemish - Dutch
Known for Painting
Notable work(s) Gipsy Girl, 1628-30
Laughing Cavalier

Frans Hals the Elder (c. 1582 – 26 August 1666) was a Dutch Golden Age portrait painter who lived and worked in Haarlem, though he was born in the Southern Netherlands (present-day Belgium). He is notable for his loose painterly brushwork, and he helped introduce this lively style of painting into Dutch art. Hals played an important role in the evolution of 17th-century group portraiture.


Hals was born in 1582 or 1583, in Antwerp as the son of the cloth merchant Franchois Fransz Hals van Mechelen (c.1542–1610) and his second wife Adriaentje van Geertenryck.[1] Like many, Hals' parents fled during the Fall of Antwerp (1584–1585) from the Spanish Netherlands to Haarlem, where he lived for the remainder of his life. Hals studied under another Flemish émigré, Karel van Mander.[1][2] His Mannerist influence, however, is not noticeably visible in his work.

In 1610, Hals became a member of the Haarlem Guild of Saint Luke, and he started to earn money as an art restorer for the city council. He worked on their large art collection that Karel van Mander had described in his Schilderboeck ("Painter's Book") published in Haarlem in 1604. The most notable of these were the works of Geertgen tot Sint Jans, Jan van Scorel and Jan Mostaert, that hung in the St. Janskerk in Haarlem. The restoration work was paid for by the city of Haarlem, since all Catholic religious art had been confiscated after the satisfactie van Haarlem, which gave Catholics equal rights to Protestants, had been reversed in 1578. However, the entire collection of paintings was not formally possessed by the city council until 1625, after the city fathers had decided which paintings were suitable for the city hall. The remaining art that was considered too "Roman Catholic" was sold to Cornelis Claesz van Wieringen, a fellow guild member, on the condition that he remove it from the city. It was in this cultural context that Hals began his career in portraiture, since the market for religious themes had disappeared.

The earliest known example of Hals' art is the portrait of René Descartes.

Statue of Frans Hals in Florapark, Haarlem

Frans Hals married his first wife, Anneke Harmensdochter around 1610, though since Frans was of Catholic birth, their marriage was recorded in the city hall and not in church.[3] Unfortunately, the exact date is unknown, because the older marriage records of the Haarlem city hall before 1688 have not been preserved.[3] Anneke was born 2 January 1590 as the daughter of the bleacher Harmen Dircksz and Pietertje Claesdr Ghijblant, and her maternal grandfather, the linen producer Claes Ghijblant of Spaarne 42, bequeathed the couple the grave in the St. Bavochurch where both are buried, though Frans took over 40 years to join his first wife there.[3] Anneke died in 1615 shortly after the birth of their third child and of these three, we know Harmen survived infancy and one had died before Hals' second marriage.[3] As biographer Seymour Slive has pointed out, older stories of Frans Hals abusing his first wife were confused with another Haarlem resident of the same name. Indeed, at the time of these charges, the artist had no wife to mistreat as Anneke had died in May 1615.[4] Similarly, historical accounts of Hals' propensity for drink have been largely based on embellished anecdotes of his early biographers, namely Arnold Houbraken, with no direct evidence existing documenting such. After his first wife died, Hals took on the young daughter of a fishmonger to look after his children, and in 1617, he married Lysbeth Reyniers. They married in Spaarndam, a small village outside the banns of Haarlem, because she was already 8 months pregnant. Frans Hals was a devoted father and they went on to have eight children.[5]

Where Hals contemporaries such as Rembrandt moved their households according to the caprices of patrons, Hals remained in Haarlem and insisted that his customers came to him. According to the Haarlem archives, a schutterstuk that Hals started in Amsterdam was finished by Pieter Codde because Hals refused to paint in Amsterdam, insisting that the militiamen come to Haarlem to sit for their portraits. For this reason we can be sure that all sitters were either from Haarlem or were visiting Haarlem when they had their portraits made. Although Hals' work was in demand throughout his life, he lived so long that he eventually went out of style as a painter and experienced financial difficulties. In addition to his painting, he continued throughout his life to work as a restorer, art dealer, and art tax expert for the city councilors. His creditors took him to court several times, and to settle his debt with a baker in 1652 he sold his belongings. The inventory of the property seized mentions only three mattresses and bolsters, an armoire, a table and five pictures (these were by himself, his sons, van Mander, and Maarten van Heemskerck).[6] Left destitute, he was given an annuity of 200 florins in 1664 by the municipality.

At a time when the Dutch nation fought for independence during the 1639 painting of the St. Joris company. It has not been possible to confirm this. It was not common for ordinary members to be painted as that privilege was reserved for the officers. Frans Hals painted the company three times. Hals was also a member of a local chamber of rhetoric, and in 1644 he became chairman of the Guild of St. Luke.

Frans Hals died in Haarlem in 1666 and was buried in the city's St. Bavo Church. He had been receiving a city pension, which was highly unusual and a sign of the esteem with which he was regarded. After his death, his widow later also applied for aid and was admitted to the local almshouse where she later died.

Artistic career

Frans Hals, later finished by Pieter Codde. De Magere Compagnie. 1637. Oil on canvas, 209 x 429 cm, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

Hals is best known for his portraits, mainly of wealthy citizens, like Pieter van den Broecke and Isaac Massa, whom he painted three times. He also painted large group portraits for local civic guards and for the regents of local hospitals. He was a Dutch Golden Age painter who practiced an intimate realism with a radically free approach. His pictures illustrate the various strata of society; banquets or meetings of officers, guildsmen, local councilmen from mayors to clerks, itinerant players and singers, gentlefolk, fishwives and tavern heroes. In his group portraits, such as The Banquet of the Officers of the St Adrian Militia Company in 1627, Hals captures each character in a different manner. The faces are not idealized and are clearly distinguishable, with their personalities revealed in a variety of poses and facial expressions.

Hals was fond of daylight and silvery sheen, while Rembrandt used golden glow effects based upon artificial contrasts of low light in immeasurable gloom. Both men were painters of touch, but of touch on different keys — Rembrandt was the bass, Hals the treble. Hals seized, with rare intuition, a moment in the life of his subjects. What nature displayed in that moment he reproduced thoroughly in a delicate scale of color, and with mastery over every form of expression. He became so clever that exact tone, light and shade, and modeling were obtained with a few marked and fluid strokes of the brush. He became a popular portrait painter, and painted the wealthy of Haarlem on special occasions. He won many commissions for wedding portraits (the husband is traditionally situated on the left, and the wife situated on the right). His double portrait of the newly married Olycans hang side by side in the Mauritshuis, but many of his wedding portrait pairs have since been split up and are rarely seen together.

Wedding portraits

The only record of his work in the first decade of his independent activity is an engraving by Jan van de Velde copied from the lost portrait of The Minister Johannes Bogardus. Early works by Hals, such as Two singing boys with a lute and a music book and the aforementioned Banquet of the Officers of the St George Militia (1616), show him as a careful draughtsman capable of great finish, yet spirited withal. The flesh he painted is pastose and burnished, less clear than it subsequently became. Later, he became more effective, displayed more freedom of hand, and a greater command of effect.

Jester with a Lute, 1620–1625, canvas, Musée du Louvre, Paris.

During this period he painted the full-length portrait of Maria Voogt at Amsterdam.

From 1620 till 1640 he painted many double portraits of married couples, on separate panels, the man on the left panel, his wife at his right. Only once did Hals portray a couple on a single canvas: Couple in a garden: Wedding portrait of Isaac Abrahamsz. Massa and Beatrix van der Laan, (c. 1622, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam).

His style changed throughout his life. Paintings of vivid color were gradually replaced by pieces where one color dominated: black. This was probably due to the sober dress of his Protestant sitters, more than any personal preference. One simple way to observe this change is to look at all of the portraits he painted through the years with his trademark-pose leaning over the back of a chair:

Later in his life his brush strokes became looser, fine detail becoming less important than the overall impression. Where his earlier pieces radiated gaiety and liveliness, his later portraits emphasized the stature and dignity of the people portrayed. This austerity is displayed in Regents of the St Elizabeth Hospital in 1641, and two decades later, The Regents and Regentesses of the Old Men's Almshouse (c. 1664), which are masterpieces of color, though in substance all but monochromes. His restricted palette is particularly noticeable in his flesh tints, which from year to year became more grey, until finally the shadows were painted in almost absolute black, as in the Tymane Oosdorp.

As this tendency coincides with the period that he was less popular among the wealthy, some historians have suggested that a reason for his predilection for black and white pigment was the low price of these colors as compared with the costly lakes and carmines. Both conclusions are probably correct, however, because unlike his contemporaries, Hals did not travel to his sitters, but let them come to him. This was good for business because he was exceptionally quick and efficient in his own well-fitted studio, but it was bad for business when Haarlem fell on hard times.

As a portrait painter, Hals had scarcely the psychological insight of a Rembrandt or Velázquez, though in a few works, like the Admiral de Ruyter, the Jacob Olycan, and the Albert van der Meer paintings, he reveals a searching analysis of character which has little in common with the instantaneous expression of his so-called character portraits. In these, he generally sets upon the canvas the fleeting aspect of the various stages of merriment, from the subtle, half ironic smile that quivers round the lips of the curiously misnamed Laughing Cavalier to the imbecile grin of the Malle Babbe. To this group of pictures belong Baron Gustav Rothschilds Jester, the Bohemienne and the Laughing Fisherboy, whilst the Portrait of the Artist with his Second Wife, and the somewhat confused group of the Beresteyn Family at the Louvre show a similar tendency. Far less scattered in arrangement than this Beresteyn group, and in every respect one of the most masterly of Hals' achievements is the group called ''The Painter and his Family, which was almost unknown until it appeared at the winter exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1906.

Many of Hals' works have disappeared, but it is not known how many. According to the most authoritative present day catalogue, compiled by Seymour Slive in 1970−1974 (Slive's last great Hals exhibition catalogue followed in 1989), another 222 paintings can be ascribed to Hals. Another authority on Hals, Claus Grimm, believes this number to be lower (145) in his Frans Hals. Das Gesamtwerk (1989).

It is not known whether Hals ever painted landscapes, still lifes or narrative pieces, but it is unlikely. His debut for Haarlem society in 1616 with his large group portrait for the St. George militia shows all three disciplines, but if that painting was his signboard for future commissions, it seems he was subsequently only hired for portraits. Many artists in the 17th century in Holland opted to specialise, and Hals also appears to have been a pure portrait specialist.

Painting technique

Frans Hals. Gypsy Girl. 1628-30. Oil on wood, 58 x 52 cm. Musée du Louvre, Paris.

Hals was a master of a technique that utilized something previously seen as a flaw in painting, the visible brushstroke. The soft curling lines of Hals' brush are always clear upon the surface: "materially just lying there, flat, while conjuring substance and space in the eye."[7]

Lively and exciting, the technique can appear "ostensibly slapdash"[7] – people often think that Hals 'threw' his works 'in one toss' (aus einem Guss) onto the canvas. This impression is not correct. True, the odd work was largely put down without underdrawings or underpainting ('alla prima'), but most of the works were created in successive layers, as was customary at that time. Sometimes a drawing was made with chalk or paint on top of a grey or pink undercoat, and was then more or less filled in, in stages. It does seem that Hals usually applied his underpainting very loosely: he was a virtuoso from the beginning. This applies, of course, particularly to his genre works and his somewhat later, mature works. Hals displayed tremendous daring, great courage and virtuosity, and had a great capacity to pull back his hands from the canvas, or panel, at the moment of the most telling statement. He didn't 'paint them to death', as many of his contemporaries did, in their great accuracy and diligence whether requested by their clients or not.

In the 17th century his first biographer, Schrevelius wrote: "An unusual manner of painting, all his own, surpassing almost everyone," on Hals' painting methods. For that matter, schematic painting was not Hals' own idea (the approach already existed in 16th century Italy), and Hals was probably inspired by Flemish contemporaries, Rubens and Van Dyck, in his painting method.

As early as the 17th century, people were struck by the vitality of Frans Hals' portraits. For example, Haarlem resident Theodorus Schrevelius noted that Hals' works reflected 'such power and life' that the painter 'seems to challenge nature with his brush'. Centuries later Vincent van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo: 'What a joy it is to see a Frans Hals, how different it is from the paintings – so many of them – where everything is carefully smoothed out in the same manner.' Hals chose not to give a smooth finish to his painting, as most of his contemporaries did, but mimicked the vitality of his subject by using smears, lines, spots, large patches of color and hardly any details.

It was not until the 19th century that his technique had followers, particularly among the Impressionists. Pieces such as The Regentesses of the Old Men's Alms House and the civic guard paintings demonstrate this technique to the fullest.


Laughing Cavalier, 1624, canvas, relined, (H) 83cm x (W) 67cm, Wallace Collection, London.

Frans influenced his brother Dirck Hals (born at Haarlem, 1591–1656), who was also a painter.[8] Additionally, five of his sons became painters:

Though most of his sons became portrait painters, some of them took up still life painting or architectural studies and landscapes. Still lifes formerly attributed to his son Frans II have since been re-attributed to other painters, however.[1][9] Frans Hals painted a young woman reaching into a basket in a still life market scene by Claes van Heussen.[10]

Other contemporary painters who took inspiration from Frans Hals were:

Hals had a large workshop in Haarlem and many students, though 19th century biographers questioned some of his pupils, since their painting styles were so dissimilar to Hals. In his De Groote Schouburgh (1718–21), Arnold Houbraken mentions Philips Wouwerman, Adriaen Brouwer, Pieter Gerritsz van Roestraten, Adriaen van Ostade and Dirck van Delen as students. Vincent Laurensz van der Vinne was also a student, according to his diary with notes left by his son Laurens Vincentsz van der Vinne. Roestraten was not only a student (the Haarlem archives contain a notarised document, which supports this fact), but he also became a son-in-law of Hals when he married his daughter Adriaentje. The Haarlem portrait painter, Johannes Verspronck, one of about 10 competing portraitists in Haarlem at the time, possibly studied for some time with Hals.

In terms of style, the closest to Hals' work is the handful of paintings that are ascribed to Judith Leyster, which she often signed. She also 'qualifies' as a possible student, as does her husband, the painter Jan Miense Molenaer.

Two centuries after his death, Hals received a number of 'posthumous' students. Claude Monet, Édouard Manet, Charles-François Daubigny, Max Liebermann, James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Gustave Courbet, and in the Netherlands, Jacobus van Looy and Isaac Israëls are some of the Impressionists and realists who have delved deeply into the work of Hals by making study copies of his work and further building on his techniques and style. Lovis Corinth named Hals as his biggest influence.[11] Many artists travelled to the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem (since 1913 on the Groot Heiligland, and before that in the Town Hall), where several of his most important works are kept.


Malle Babbe, c.1630. Oil on canvas, 75cm by 64cm. Staatliche Museen, Berlin.

Hals' reputation waned after his death and for two centuries he was held in such poor esteem that some of his paintings, which are now among the proudest possessions of public galleries, were sold at auction for a few pounds or even shillings. The portrait of Johannes Acronius realized five shillings at the Enschede sale in 1786. The portrait of the man with the sword at the Liechtenstein gallery sold in 1800 for 4, 5s.

Starting at the middle of the 1860s his prestige rose again thanks to the efforts of critic Théophile Thoré-Bürger.[12] With his rehabilitation in public esteem came the enormous rise in value, and, at the Secretan sale in 1889, the portrait of Pieter van den Broecke was bid up to 4,420 francs, while in 1908 the National Gallery paid 25,000 pounds for the large family group from the collection of Lord Talbot de Malahide.

Hals' work remains popular today, particularly with young painters who can find many lessons about practical technique from his unconcealed brushstrokes.[7] Hals' works have found their way to countless cities all over the world and into museum collections. From the late 19th century, they were collected everywhere — from Antwerp to Toronto, and from London to New York. Many of his paintings were then sold to American collectors.

A primary collection of his work is displayed in the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem.

A crater on Mercury is named in his honor.

Hals was pictured on the Netherlands' 10-guilder banknote of 1968.[13]

External video
Hals' Singing Boy with Flute, Smarthistory[14]
Hals's Malle Babbe, Smarthistory[15]

Public collections (selection)

See also

References and sources

  1. ^ a b c Frans Hals iat the Netherlands Institute for Art History (Dutch)
  2. ^ Slive, Seymour, Frans Hals, and P. Biesboer (1989). Frans Hals. Munich: Prestel. p. 379.
  3. ^ a b c d Anneke Harmensdr in Nieuwe gegevens betreffende Anneke Harmansdr., de eerste echtegonte van Frans Hals, by M. Thierry de Bye Dolleman working from research by C.A. de Goederen-van Hees, pp. 249-257, Haerlem : jaarboek 1973, ISSN 0927-0728, on the website of the North Holland Archives
  4. ^ Slive, Seymour, Frans Hals, and Pieter Biesboer (1989). Frans Hals. Munich: Prestel. p. 376.
  5. ^ see Hals biography in the Web Gallery of Art
  6. ^ Slive, Seymour, Frans Hals, and P. Biesboer (1989). Frans Hals. Munich: Prestel. p. 406.
  7. ^ a b c  (subscription required)
  8. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica 1911 quote: "Quite in another form, and with much of the freedom of the elder Hals, Dirk Hals, his brother, painted festivals and ballrooms. But Dirk had too much of the freedom and too little of the skill in drawing which characterized his brother."
  9. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica 1911 quote: "Of the master's numerous family members only Frans Hals the Younger (1618–1669) is notable, with paintings of cottages and poultry. A table laden with gold and silver dishes, cups, glasses and books, is considered one of his finest works."
  10. ^ Young woman with a display of fruit and vegetables in the RKD
  11. ^ Lovis Corinth A Feast of Painting, p17, Prestel, Vienna, 2009 ISBN 978-3-901508-4378-5
  12. ^ Johnson, Paul. Art: A New History, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2003, p.369
  13. ^ Cuhaj, George S., ed. (2012). 2013 Standard Catalog of World Paper Money. Krause Publications. p. 713.  
  14. ^ "Hals' Singing Boy with Flute".  
  15. ^ "Hals's Malle Babbe".  
  16. ^ Collection Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen
  17. ^ Collection Rijksmuseum


  • Seymour Slive: Frans Hals, 3 Volumes (), New York / London 1970–1974
  • Frans Hals (, 1989.
  • Claus Grimm published his in 1989 (Stuttgart/Zürich; also translated into Dutch and English).
  • N. Middelkoop and A. van Grevenstein, Frans Hals. Leven, werk, restauratie (Life, work and restorations) (Haarlem Amsterdam 1988). This work gives an account of restorations of the riflemen's pieces, but it also gives a picture of Hals' life and work.
  • Antoon Erftemeijer; 2004 : Frans Hals in het Frans Hals Museum, Amsterdam/Gent (in Dutch, English and French), in which various chapters are devoted to Hals' life, his predecessors, portrait painting in the Golden Age, Hals' painting technique and other subjects. Many pictures with close-ups in this book show Hals' works in great detail.
  • Christopher Atkins (2004) Frans Hals's Virtuoso Brushwork, Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 2003, Zwolle, p. 281-309).

Parts of this article are excerpts of The Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem, July 2005 by Antoon Erftemeijer, Frans Hals Museum curator.

External links

  • 27 Paintings by Frans Hals at the BBC Your Paintings site
  • Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem
  • Frans Hals Works, Biography and Style
  • The National Gallery
  • The Wallace Collection
  • Web Gallery of Art (large collection of pictures and extensive biography)
  • (German)Frans Hals at
  • Olga's Gallery
  • Works and literature on Frans Hals
  • Walter Liedtke, (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011)"Frans Hals: Style and Substance"
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.