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Frans Hals

Dutch Painter

Frans Hals Photo
Movements and Styles: The Baroque, Dutch Golden Age

Born: 1582/83 - Antwerp, Flanders

Died: 26 August 1666 - Haarlem, Dutch Republic


Summary of Frans Hals

Hals was the first Master of the Dutch Golden Age of painting and his creative energy and vivacious character depictions played an incredibly important role in the evolution of portraiture as a genre. Instead of conforming to contemporary notions of beauty or stereotypical appearances, Hals subjects have clearly differentiated faces that are unique and lifelike in appearance and his sitters are often portrayed in relaxed poses and situations, engaging with those around them instead of gazing directly at the viewer. This approach to portraiture was new and Hals's work spawned many imitators in his own period and many of his approaches were adopted as part of wider movements in Dutch art. His ideas also saw something of a revival in the nineteenth century, with his paintings influencing both the subject matter and the stylistic approach of the Impressionists.

Key Ideas

The smile is the hallmark of many of Hals images, ranging from a glimmer in the eye to a broad grin and this was unusual at a period when sitters were traditionally depicted with their mouths closed and with a serious expression. Hals represented laughter deftly and his figures are more animated and consequently more human than those produced by many of his contemporaries.
Hals inverted compositional norms by utilizing a huge variety of poses for the people he painted and this was at odds with the stiff and formal poses seen elsewhere. This was particularly novel in his group works such as The Banquet of the Officers of the Civic Guard of St George (1616) where he banished monotonous regularity with techniques including grouping the figures rather than placing them at equidistant intervals, incorporating individual gestures, and varying the direction of the gaze of the sitters.
Hals' brush strokes were both visible and prominent and this created a rough textured appearance to his work. Most paintings of the period were carefully smoothed and finished and this contrast added to the vitality of Hals pieces giving them a unique sense of life and movement.
Frans Hals Photo

Frans Hals was born in either 1582 or 1583 in Antwerp to Franchois Fransz Hals van Mechelen, a cloth merchant, and Adraentje von Geertenryck. Antwerp was at that time part of the Spanish Netherlands and during the Fall of Antwerp a couple of years later (1584-1585) Hals' family fled to Haarlem in the Dutch Republic. Frans had two brothers, Dirck and Joost, both of whom also went on to become painters, although none of Joost's work survives today (he died before 1626). Even though Hals and his parents were Catholics, Dirck was baptized in Haarlem in the Protestant faith.

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