Frans Hals will include around 50 of the Dutch master painter’s greatest works, many on loan from top international collections. The exhibition is organized by the Rijksmuseum in partnership with the National Gallery, London, and Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, and through a special collaboration with the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem.
Frans Hals is regarded as one of the most innovative artists of the seventeenth century, for his brisk, impressionistic painting style. With unparalleled boldness and talent, he captured the vitality of his subjects – from stately regents to cheerful musicians and children – and made them live and breathe on the canvas.
Exclusive to the Rijksmuseum exhibition in 2024 will be the inclusion of paintings such as the Banquet of the Officers of the St George Civic Guard from 1616 and Regentesses of the Old Men’s Alms House (Frans Hals Museum), the Portraits of Lucas de Clercq and Feyntje van Steenkiste (Rijksmuseum) and the Laughing Boy (Mauritshuis). Following monographic exhibitions devoted to Rembrandt (in 2015 and 2019) and Vermeer (in 2023), the Rijksmuseum is now staging its first major exhibition devoted to Frans Hals. This is the first exhibition of his work on such a scale since the 1989-1990 show which visited The Royal Academy of Arts, London, the Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem, and The National Gallery of Art, Washington.
The 50 works in this exhibition testify to the aim of Frans Hals (Antwerp 1582/1584 – Haarlem 1666) to convincingly portray his subjects as living, breathing, kinetic individuals. To this end, Hals deliberately and boldly pursued a unique personal style that was utterly original in the context of seventeenth-century Dutch painting. He used his quick and lively brushwork style to imbue his subjects with an unprecedented level of dynamism. The exhibition will also dig deeper into the identities and social milieus of the people Hals painted, bringing them even more to life. Malle Babbe, for example, is believed to have been a familiar figure on the streets of Hals’s home city of Haarlem, while the man portrayed in Peeckelhaering was probably an English actor touring the Netherlands with a theater group.
Frans Hals’s original style and technique earned him a reputation in his own time as a virtuoso, a status equaled only by the likes of Rembrandt in the Netherlands and Velázquez in Spain. He was an in-demand portraitist among the wealthy citizenry of Haarlem and other cities in the region. Over the course of the 18th century, however, Hals’s work gradually fell into obscurity. It wasn’t until the 19th century that French art critic and journalist Théophile Thoré-Bürger (1807–1869) rediscovered his work, as well as that of Vermeer. Until the 1960s, Frans Hals was regarded as one of the ‘big three’ of seventeenth-century Dutch painting, alongside Rembrandt and Vermeer. Later, however, interest in the artist waned significantly – reason enough for the Rijksmuseum, The National Gallery, London, and Gemäldegalerie, Berlin, to place him on the highest possible pedestal and to show how truly boundary-breaking he was as an artist.
The artist’s expressive, gestural brushwork has always been seen as the most distinctive quality of his art, and he can justifiably be described as the forerunner of Impressionism. Hals’s virtuosic style influenced fellow artists Gustave Courbet, Édouard Manet, James McNeil Whistler, Claude Monet, Max Liebermann, Vincent van Gogh, John Singer Sargent and others. Almost all of them visited Haarlem to admire his portraits of individuals and civil militia groups.
Frans Hals presents selected key paintings spanning the artist’s entire oeuvre, which currently comprises some 200 works in all. Exhibits include The Laughing Cavalier (1624, Wallace Collection, London), which is being lent for the first time since 1870; Portrait of Catharina Hooft with her Nurse (ca. 1619/20) and Malle Babbe (ca. 1640, Gemäldegalerie, Berlin); Family Group in a Landscape (ca. 1646, Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bomemisza, Madrid); Fruit and Vegetable Seller (1630, private collection), and The Lute Player (ca. 1623, Musée du Louvre, Paris). The Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem is lending four of his militia and regent paintings. Hals’ earliest militia painting Banquet of the Officers of the St George Civic Guard (1616, Frans Hals Museum) will leave Haarlem for the first time.
Authors: Bart Cornelis, Friso Lammertse, Justine Rinnooy Kan, Jaap van der Veen
Available in Dutch and English versions, 224 pages
Dutch version: ISBN 978 94 9266 043 5 (softcover)
English version: ISBN 978 94 9266 044 2 (softcover)
The National Gallery, London, from 30 September 2023 to 21 January 2024
The Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, from 16 February to 9 June 2024
Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, from 12 July to 3 November 2024