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Frans Hals: 27 shades of black and a big smile

2024-02-27T05:15:30.051Z

Highlights: Frans Hals (1582-1666) was a Dutch Baroque painter of the 17th century. His loose brushwork seduced Impressionism and was seen by Van Gogh, Monet and Manet. The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is hosting a retrospective of his work for the first time. Hals was born in Antwerp, but moved to the north of the country when he was 14. He married twice, had at least 14 children and lived to 84 years old.


The anthology organized by the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam recovers the Dutch Baroque painter whose loose brushwork seduced Impressionism


The national museum of art and history of the Netherlands, Rijksmuseum, has spread a carpet and several blue walls to welcome Frans Hals (1582-1666).

The Dutch baroque painter, of the 27 shades of black and the smiles of the 17th century, is the subject of an ambitious exhibition that portrays the society of the time.

There are serious and powerful men, with first and last names, captured with goldsmith precision.

And there are anonymous people whose gestures seem to guide each brushstroke with an agile and realistic style that excited the impressionists.

After the success of last year's retrospective dedicated to Vermeer, the museum hosts for the first time Hals, an avant-garde of European art of the time.

The artist's 27 shades of black on black on black were seen by Vincent van Gogh.

Given the passion with which he approached his craft, it is possible that he even counted them one by one.

“It is significant, because color is not what stands out most in the works dedicated to Hals by art historians.

But colleagues like Van Gogh, Monet and Manet were amazed by it,” says Friso Lammertse, curator of 17th-century paintings at the Rijksmuseum.

“Everyone wore black in wealthy society and the elaborate dresses in his paintings are full of nuances,” he adds.

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The smile that dazzled three great painting geniuses

The brown color also competes with gold in oil paintings such as

Portrait of Catharina Hooft with her Nanny

(1619).

She was a three-year-old girl who married at sixteen to Cornelis de Graeff, statesman, diplomat and one of the most influential mayors of the Dutch capital.

The gold of the little girl's dress seems to dominate the scene until the viewer notices her smile and that of her nurse.

“It's as if Hals was able to anticipate the change of expression of his models, and also the movement, and that had not happened before,” says Lammertse.

'Portrait of Catharina Hooft with her Nurse' (1619-20), oil on canvas by Frans Hals.Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Gemäldegalerie

Standing in front of the

Portrait of Willem van Heythuysen

(1625), the expert explains the reason for the difference in posture of the ladies and gentlemen who tour the exhibition.

Van Heythuysen was a thread merchant who poses like an aristocrat: full length, with one foot forward and a sword.

“Men could do everything and they wanted to see the etiquette of the time reflected on the canvas.

They had no restrictions and they were inside,” says the conservative.

Among the parade of elegant ladies with their hands joined or separated, but always modest, the

Portrait of Cunera van Baersdorp

(1625) stands out.

She was the daughter of the mayor of the Dutch city of Leiden, and it is believed that she is the only woman in Hals' work who poses with one arm resting on her waist.

It seems little, but it is almost a declaration of principles.

Yes, there is an element that somehow alters the stillness imposed on bourgeoisies and aristocrats by social norms.

It's the cap that everyone wears.

The artist did not always date his paintings, and the evolution of the fashion for this ornament has been very useful in determining the year in which they were executed.

“They changed like other clothes now, non-stop, every so often.

And we have been able to date oil paintings in a period of five years thanks to the evolution of female headdresses.”

Among the 48 fabrics gathered for the exhibition are large and small white caps, all bristling with lace.

Only one is adorned with a pink border and appears in a

Portrait of a Couple

(1622), of the couple Isaac Massa and Beatrix van der Laen.

She puts her hand on his shoulder and they both look happy.

Two portraits of Frans Hals, in the exhibition at the Rijksmuseum.Albertine Dijkema (Rijksmuseum)

Frans Hals was born in Antwerp when the city was part of the Kingdom of Spain.

His family emigrated to the north, to what is now the Netherlands, and settled in Haarlem, where today there is a museum dedicated exclusively to his work.

He married twice, had at least 14 children, and lived to be 84 years old.

He began his career with traditional group portraits of civic militias—similar to Rembrandt's

The Night Watch—

and his mastery of portraiture quickly became clear.

In the exhibition there are three examples of this kind and the face of each of the officers is worked as if it were a loose piece.

“They were very popular subjects in Dutch art, and Hals is the first to achieve a natural effect in painted subjects.

But he also captured street people, and he often had to walk around Haarlem looking for models,” says Lammertse.

And this is where the smiles appear.

The spontaneity of the brushstroke is on par with the laughter of children outdoors.

It occurs in

Young Fisherman

(1638) and

Young Fisherman Laughing

(1630);

the second, a sure candidate for orthodontics in the 21st century.

Hals paints his irregular smile in an attractive and empathetic way, and the same goes for the happy face of

Laughing Boy

(1630).

The exhibition highlights

The Merry Drinker

(1629), and it is the one that greets the visitor, with his reddened cheeks, his right hand waving and a glass of white wine in the other.

Although he dominates the yellow of the jacket, the black hat draws attention.

“Both this painting and those of anonymous children and women were genre pieces.

The models couldn't buy them, but the rich liked them a lot,” says the same expert.

'Malle Babbe' (around 1640), oil on canvas by Frans Hals.Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Gemäldegalerie

Two other examples of these works hang in one of the rooms:

Malle Babbe

(1640) and

La bohemia

(1632).

The first is an older woman who may have been a drinker or suffer from mental illness.

Hence her nickname: Crazy Barbara (Babbe) (Malle).

In reality, her name was Barbara Claes and she was considered unbalanced given her problems.

Her grimace contrasts with the expression of the other painting, with a girl in her prime.

She wears her hair down and a low-cut blouse, and the focus is on her bust, which she shows off with mischievous naturalness.

Hals had a studio and five of his children also painted.

The father's work is around 200 paintings, although there is no consensus on the exact number.

There are also differences in the quality of some canvases, and that represents an attribution problem in some cases because he barely signed.

The exhibition has traveled from London, where it debuted in 2023, and Taco Dibbits, director of the Rijksmuseum, makes this distinction between the three great Dutch masters: “Rembrandt is the emotion of the human condition.

Vermeer, stillness.

Frans Hals, the movement, and you end up smiling at the freedom of his brushstroke.”

Open until June 9 in Amsterdam, the exhibition will then travel to the German Gemäldegalerie in Berlin.

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Source: elparis

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