Frans Hals

The painter Frans Hals  1582-1666

The life of Frans Hals

Frans Hals is regarded, along with Rembrandt and Vermeer, as one of the three great Dutch Old Masters. Frans Hals was born in 1582 as the son of a cloth merchant. The Southern Dutch family moved to Haarlem around 1586. Frans Hals was probably a pupil of Karel van Mander and became a member of the Guild of St Luke in 1610, relatively old for that time. His earliest recognised work dates from 1611. However, he must have been a full-blown artist much earlier.

In 1616, he travelled to Antwerp to study the work of Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck. From 1612 to 1624, Frans Hals served in the local militia, where the regular term of service was normally two years. Frans Hals painted his first militia piece in 1616 and his last in 1639.

Frans married twice and had fourteen children, of whom five sons were trained as painters. Around 1615, Frans Hals was in financial difficulties, which ensured that poverty would haunt him all his life. Perhaps that was the reason why he continued to paint into old age. He was already well over 80 when he painted his famous portraits of the regents of the old men’s home, the monumental building that now houses the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem.

Frans Hals died at the age of about 84 and is buried in the old St. Bavo Church on the Grote Markt in Haarlem. (In 1900, a statue of Hals was erected in the Florapark in Haarlem and in 1968, he was depicted on the 10 guilder banknote in the ‘Erflaters’ series.)

The work of Frans

Frans Hals is known for his exuberant style and his dashing, loose brushwork and intimate, enigmatic drama. He had daring and virtuosity. He distinguished himself from his contemporaries by the way his models can sometimes still feel alive, which was often not achieved by other painters because of their accuracy. Although Frans Hals is famous for his lively portraits of people, no independent self-portraits of him have survived. He did, however, paint himself in his militia piece of 1639.

Frans Hals was not only famous in his own time. In 1813, the English painter James Northcote wrote “in terms of character representation, he [Frans Hals] was certainly the greatest painter who ever lived.”

The impressionists of the nineteenth century regarded Hals as a kindred spirit and were full of admiration for his loose brushstrokes and use of colour. Artists such as Manet, Monet and Courbet even travelled all the way to Haarlem to see Frans Hals’ masterpieces. The American James McNeil Whistler could not stop himself from touching a painting by Hals, and Vincent van Gogh wrote to his brother that Hals used ‘as many as 27 shades of black’. Frans Hals is still a great source of inspiration for contemporary artists worldwide, such as Kehinde Wiley.


Haerlemsche Meesters

In collaboration with The Frans Hals Museum, we bring you the special collection Haerlemsche Meesters, here you will find of course the world-famous militia pieces of Frans Hals.

A collaboration with the Frans Hals Museum

A masterpiece?

Would you like an impressive masterpiece by Frans Hals on your wall? Take a look at his paintings and choose your favourite one in your desired size.

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