Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Franz Hals Museum, 2

Hals is one of the painters we really like. A humanist contemporary of Rembrandt. He did a few still lifes. But most of his known work is individual portrait, some formal, commissioned, some tronies, just regular people—drunks, prostitutes, town idiots—and some very important group portraits. He went out of fashion, somewhat like Vermeer, for a couple centuries, then was rediscovered in the 19th. And now his work, the individual portraits especially, are famous and spread across the globe, in 88 different museums, including all the most famous ones. If you know Hals, you probably know one or more of these individual portraits. Interestingly, the Franz Hals Museum in Haarlem has few of the individual portraits, but all of the great group portraits.

Hals was an innovator, not so much with medium as with the brush. He painted quickly, seldom did sketches or studies, and used big quick brushwork to convey his subjects, no matter how large or minute. The Impressionists, 200 years later, idolized him. Like Hals, they knew the human eye would fill in the blanks, make sense of dabs of paint, and pronounce them beautiful or insightful. (Van Gogh wrote that Hals used 27 different shades of black!)

The main reason we have always liked and sought after Hals is that his paintings, most of them, are fun and enjoyable to look at. He was a master psychologist, like the greatest of portrait painters, able to capture a soul in a snapshot. So his contemporaries said. Sort of.

One other tidbit. Hals refused to paint anywhere but Haarlem. The subjects of his portraits, including the great group portraits, came to him. No less than Descartes, the greatest mind of the age, came to Haarlem to sit for Franz Hals. That portrait resides in the Louvre.
Officers of the St. George's Civic Guard, 1639; we're moving
from later to earlier; these are all huge format paintings, life-sized

Banquet for the (retiring) Officers of the St. George's Civic
Guard, 1624-27; in Hals' day the banquets were limited to
three days' duration

Banquest of the Officers of the St. George Civic Guard, 1616;
they were good customers; Hals was a member

Banquet of the Officers of the Callivermen [Cavalrymen?]
Civic Guard, 1624-27

Meeting of Officers and Sub-alterns of the Callivermen, 1633

Center, Hals himself, one of the St. Georgers

Enlarge (click): a great example of Hals'
minimalist brushwork

The only dog to be a member of one of the Dutch civic guards;
I have forgotten his name; Phaedeaux or perhaps Roveer?

One of the Museum's few individual portraits,
but an important one, thought to be Hals' first:
Jacobus Zaffius, archdeacon and highest-ranking
Catholic in Protestant Haarlem; he was so
respected the city council looked the other way...

Another individual portrait, undated, the subject

I apparently became quite undisciplined at this point, taking
pix of Hals men in black but failing to shoot the descriptors

I think these are the trustees of the old mens' home where the
museum now resides

And, undergoing restoration--I love museums that let you see
this is so much of what museums are about--the
female trustees of the home once it was decided to go co-ed

Moving right along now, the Apotheek at the home...

And--who else?--Jan Steen's The Quack

Lastly, the beautiful French courtyard of the home

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