Frans Hals

1583 (Haarlem) - 1666 (Haarlem)

by Jan Melkert

Frans Hals was born in Haarlem. His father worked in the textile industry as a specialised workman. He originated from Flanders. Presumably Frans Hals was an apprentice of Carel van Mander. Haarlem was an important city in the 17th century. Frans Hals became member of the painters guild, called Saint Lucas guild, in 1610. The earliest dated work of Hals is from 1611. Hals developed himself as painter of portraits. The art of making portraits (individual as well as group portraits) became the most important element of his work as painter. Group portraits were the so called “schuttersstukken”. These were a kind of municipal policemen. The men on the group portraits were the officers. Hals used his painters brush in a smooth, quick and accurate manner. His living was dependent from the orders he got from the well to do citizens. His fame and popularity grew, so that the number of orders grew as well. With the years his virtuosity increased. He painted an impressive number of group portraits. A number of them can still be admired in the FRANS HALS MUSEUM in Haarlem. Well known group portraits are the members of the Saint Joris guild, the guild of hand bow marksmen, etc. In former times these men were real marksmen/policemen, but the character of the groups changed in social clubs of well to do citizens. The way in which they were painted and how they were depicted at the dining tables did not match with reality any more. In general they were painted in black cloth and dependent from the place on the painting, you had to pay. The colours on the painting came from the sashes and banners. In Haarlem there lived quite a few other painters such as Hercules Seghers, Willem Buytewegh, Jan van de Velde, Essaia van de Velde, Jan van Goyen and Jacob van Ruysdael. After 1625 became the most important city and Amsterdam became the place to be for painters and other art craftsmen. A famous portrait of Hals is the LAUGHING CAVELIER from 1624. Virtuous in style, brilliant in colours, a well made head, smooth brushstrokes vary with precise ones. Hals also got orders from citizens in Amsterdam. Another famous portrait is MALLE BABBE. In his family there were a few other painters. The most important was his brother Dirck Hals. Frans Hals was a steady worker and kept painting on high age. Quite a number of paintings he made after 1650. In the end he must have sold less paintings, for municipal documents show that he received a benefit from the city administration. In these late years he paints like Rembrandt in a smooth impressionistic way and with more light/dark contrasts. The latest orders were from the administration of the poor old men houses.











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