FRANS HALS c1581 -
xxxxxIn all, some 250 of his paintings -
xxxxxLater in his career, this light, carefree style, so adept at depicting merrymaking, gave way to a more thoughtful and sombre approach. Rather than aiming to catch a characteristic but fleeting expression, he attempted to analyse the character of his subject. Colours become muted, tones turned darker, and a subtle range of black and white often predominated. It was perhaps because of this that, from about 1650 onwards, he received fewer commissions. Nonetheless, to this later period belongs two of his most impressive works, the group portraits of the men and women administrators of the almshouses of Haarlem, both brilliant in their realistic depiction of old-
xxxxxVery little is known of the early career of the man who was to become one of Holland's greatest portrait painters. It is more than likely that he was born in Antwerp, Belgium, but he spent nearly all his life at Haarlem in the Netherlands, where he was trained in the studio of the painter Karel van Mander. Despite being in almost constant demand for group portraits of the members of charity organizations, various militia companies, the city corporation and the like, it appears that he was often in debt and ended his days in an almshouse -
xxxxxThe four portraits illustrated below are (left to right): Buffoon Playing a Lute, Willem Croes, The Merry Drinker, and The Fisher Boy.
xxxxxHals had ten children, and five of his eight sons followed in their father's footsteps -