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HALS, Frans/ ARTISTS BEFORE 1650/ ART MAIN film and food 
Dutch painter (b. 1591, Haarlem, d. 1656, Haarlem) literature and food

Early life and works Frans Hals left no written evidence about his life or his works, and only a brief outline of his biography is known. He was the son of a cloth worker from Mechelen (Malines) and of a local girl, and the family moved from Spanish-held Flanders to Haarlem in the free Netherlands by 1591 at the latest; the local town hall records give this date for the christening of Frans’s younger brother Dirck, who also became a painter. Except for a brief visit to Antwerp in 1616, Hals lived all his life in Haarlem.

What he did for the first 25 or 30 years of his life is not known. The earliest indication of his activity as an artist was that about 1610 he joined the Guild of St Luke of Haarlem, a body empowered to register artists as masters. Shortly afterward he married his first wife, Annetje Harmensdochter Abeel. She bore him two children before her death in 1615. Two years later, Hals married Lysbeth Reyniers, who was to survive her husband by some nine years. In all, Hals had 10 children, and 5 of his 8 sons became painters. None, however, was of note.

Tradition has it that Frans Hals was the pupil of Carel van Mander, a minor painter and poet who helped found a successful painting academy at Haarlem. There is no evidence either to support this claim or to refute it. From the beginning, howeve

Frans Hals was the great 17th-century portraitist of the Dutch bourgeoisie of Haarlem, where he spent practically all his life. Hals evolved a technique that was close to impressionism in its looseness, and he painted with increasing freedom as he grew older. The jovial spirit of his early work is typified by the Shrovetide Revellers (Merry Company, c. 1615; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). In middle age his portraits grew increasingly sad, revealing sometimes a sense of foreboding (e.g., Nicolaes Hasselaer, 1630-33; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam). The paintings of his old age show best his genius for portraying character (e.g., Man in a Slouch Hat, 1660-66; Staatliche Museen, Kassel).

Hals’s work conflicted with the typical mannerisms of his presumed master. His early work is actually closer in spirit to that of Jacob Jordaens, who was an outstanding Baroque painter from Antwerp and a pupil of Peter Paul Rubens. The good humour of Hals’s popular scenes recalls the joyous gatherings painted by the contemporary Dutch followers of the earthy, sensuous Italian painter Caravaggio.

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Hals, Frans - Banquet of the Officers of the St George Civic Guard  
artists before 1650 bookshop (UK)
HALS, Frans
Banquet of the Officers of the St George Civic Guard
Oil on canvas, 175 x 324 cm
Frans Halsmuseum, Haarlem
Hals later works seem to have more of a psychological subtlety. Van Gogh once calculated that Hals used twenty-seven different tones of black. In any event, early or late, there is a compelling seriousness and sympathy for the human condition that emanates from his work; and the more raw the more this is apparent. After all, some of the lewd gestures and leering point to a deeper melancholic consciousness that points to the work of a Watteau, by establishing the representation of self-awareness as a subject in itself and Hals’ talent for representing real people living life for the moment. ‘Being” as it were, seemed to be unique for his time. While a contemporary like Rembrandt may have surpassed Hals through a more profound sense of human character that mined some ancient historical continuities, Hals earthy immediacy was unique and even refreshing to be unburdened by that historical prerogative.  
The places the officers occupy are in strict accord with military protocol. The colonel, the company’s highest ranking officer, is seated at the head of the table; at his right is the provost, the second ranking officer. They are flanked by the company’s three captains and the three lieutenants are at the lower end of the table. The three ensigns, who were not members of the officer corps, and the servant stand.    
HALS, Frans
Banquet of the Officers of the St George Civic Guard (detail)
Oil on canvas
Frans Halsmuseum, Haarlem


Merrymakers at Shrovetide, ca. 1615
Oil on canvas
This important early painting by Hals dates from about 1615 and recalls contemporary works by the Flemish artist Jacob Jordaens in its coloring, brushwork, and crowded composition. The subject is Vastenavond (Shrovetide or Mardi Gras), a pre-Lenten feast devoted to fools. Two of the figures are recognizable as stock characters from comic theater: Peeckelhaering (Pickled Herring) with the garland of eggs and sausages, and Hans Wurst with sausages on his cap. The young woman (a male actor?) is surrounded by food, objects such as the bagpipe, and an obscene gesture, all of which comprise a chorus of sexual references. The painting inspired copies and versions by Haarlem artists and in its coarse humour brings to mind Adriaen Brouwer, Hals’s famous Flemish pupil of the 1620s.

"Frans Hals: Merrymakers at Shrovetide (14.40.605)". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000 ndash;. (October 2006)

   Amsterdam, the Hague, Haarlem: Critical Notes on The Rijks Museum, The Hague Museum and the Hals Museum –
 Von Frans Hals bis Jan Steen –