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How Profligate Drunkard Frans Hals Influenced the Modernists

  • James Ensor – Renetesses of the Old Mens Almshouse in Haarlem. One Figure
  • James Ensor – Renetesses of the Old Mens Almshouse in Haarlem Two Figures
October 14, 2018
Balasz Takac is alias of Vladimir Bjelicic who is actively engaged in art criticism, curatorial and artistic practice.

The artworks of Baroque old masters still inspire new generations of artists. A high level of craftsmanship and technical innovation are still being analyzed by scholars so the domains of this rich art movement are always giving new conclusions and standpoints. Among the most interesting ones if the Flemish school, and one of its main proponents, Frans Hals, is known for his exquisitely painted solo and group portraits.

The domains of this master were huge and apparently was his heritage since various following artists were quite influenced by his practice. Therefore, the Frans Hals Museum is hosting a blockbuster exhibition Frans Hals and the Moderns in order to present his iconic position in modernist circles.

Left Frans Hals – A Ducth gentleman Right Frans Hals – Stephanus Stephanus Geraerdts
Left: Frans Hals – A Ducth gentleman, 1643/45. Oil on canvas. National Galleries of Scotland, Edinbourgh / Right: Frans Hals – Stephanus Geraerdts, Alderman in Haarlem, ca. 1650/52. Oil on canvas. Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen. Photo: Hugo Maertens

The Exhibition Concept

Interestingly so, Frans Hals was rediscovered in 1868 by influential French art critic Théophile Thoré-Bürger. During the 18th and the first half of the 19th century, this master was rather ignored by the critics, although his painterly style was progressive and was one step ahead of the fashionable academic style of his time.

Although Frans Hals painted various group portraits of officers, local councilmen, mayors and clerks, itinerant players and singer, he also did a number of portraits of social misfits, in particular the drunkards. That is why his paintings were worth very little in the art market and gradually he had financial issues and went out of style as a painter.

Right Edourad Manet – Boy with Pitcher Right Robert Henri – Laughing boy
Left: Edourad Manet – Boy with Pitcher (La Regalade), ca. 1862/72. Oil on canvas. The Art Institute of Chicago. Bequest of Katharine Dexter McCormick. Photo: The Art Institute of Chicago/Art Resource, NY/Scala, Florence / Right: Robert Henri – Laughing boy (Jopie van Slouten), 1910. Oil on cabs, 61 x 50, 8 cm. Birmingham Museum of Art, Alabama. Gift of the Friends of American Art in Honor of Edward Weeks, former curator of the Birmingham Museum of Art, 1991

The Installment

This exhibition marks the 150th anniversary of the rediscovery of Frans Hals, so the works of this grand portraitist will be installed in contrast with the works of artists who were later influenced by him. The works of Manet, Van Gogh, Ensor and others will reveal the intensity of Hals’s influence on painters in the second half of the nineteenth century.

Furthermore, the featuring works will show how Hals treated the painterly surface and combined colors in order to describe the best the inner state of the portrayed subject.

Left Frans Hals – Fisher Boy Right William Merrit Chase – Portrait of a Woman
Left: Frans Hals – Fisher Boy, 1632/33. Oil on canvas. Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen. Photo: Hugo Maertens / Right: William Merrit Chase – Portrait of a Woman, 1978. Oil on canvas. Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT. Bequest of Clara Hinton Gould

Frans Hals and the Moderns at The Frans Hals Museum

This exhibition should be perceived as an important historical contribution to the proper reevaluation of the domains of Frans Hals. The eighty loans gathered will unmistakably reflect the impact Hals had on these modern painters.

Frans Hals and the Moderns will be on display at The Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem, Holland until 10 February 2019.

Featured images: James Ensor – Renetesses of the Old Men’s Almshouse in Haarlem. One Figure, 19th century. Drawing. Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen. Photo: Hugo Maertens; James Ensor – Renetesses of the Old Men’s Almshouse in Haarlem. Two Figures, 19th century. Drawing. Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen. Photo: Hugo Maertens. All images courtesy Frans Hals Museum.