Frans Hals and the Moderns

Frans Hals Museum
Haarlem, Netherlands
13 October 2018 – 10 February 2019

It is exactly 150 years since Frans Hals was rediscovered. Since then, he has ceased to be regarded as a profligate drunkard. Nineteenth-century painters like Manet, Liebermann, Singer Sargent and Van Gogh admired him as an icon. With around fifty loans from museums all over the world, the exhibition reflects the huge impact that Hals had on these modern painters. For the first time, his paintings will be set against responses to his work by artists painting in the late nineteenth century, that other heyday of painting, revealing just how progressive Frans Hals was: ‘Frans Hals, c’est un moderne’.

Exactly 150 years ago – in 1868 – Frans Hals was rediscovered by the influential French art critic Théophile ThoréBürger. Art critics had disregarded Hals for most of the eighteenth century and the first half of the nineteenth. His innovative painting style with his loose touch no longer chimed with the prevailing academic style. This loose painting style was associated with his ‘licentious’ lifestyle and presented as a poor example. This meant that his paintings were worth little in the art market and Frans Hals’s name did not feature in most works about the Golden Age.

Thoré-Bürger (who was also instrumental in rediscovering Vermeer) discussed Hals’s work in various publications, but it was two articles for the influential art magazine Gazette des Beaux-Arts, in which he extolled the artist’s virtues, that had the most impact. Thoré-Bürger specifically cited Hals’s virtuosity and daring brushwork as an example to modern artists. The articles sparked renewed interest in Hals’s paintings and a reassessment of his style among contemporary painters. The price of his works skyrocketed and every respected museum and collector was eager to acquire a Hals. Many painters – to begin with mainly French, but soon German, English and American too – travelled hundreds of miles to Haarlem, which became a veritable place of pilgrimage for artists, where they could admire Hals’s work in the recently opened Gemeentemuseum (1862).

The 150th anniversary of this rediscovery is an opportunity to stage an exhibition about the grand master of the portrait. Frans Hals and the Moderns: Hals Meets Manet, Singer Sargent, Van Gogh reveals the strength of Hals’s influence on painters in the second half of the nineteenth century. Frans Hals was admired, even worshipped by late nineteenth-century artists like Edouard Manet, Max Liebermann, John Singer Sargent, James Ensor, Mary Cassatt, Gustave Courbet, McNeill Whistler, William Merritt Chase, Henri Fantin-Latour and Vincent van Gogh. They were impressed by his loose touch and rough manner, which they saw as ‘impressionist’. This exhibition, which runs from 13 October 2018 to 10 February 2019 in the Frans Hals Museum, in the Hof, features some fifty loans reflecting the impact Hals had on these modern painters. For the first time in the history of art, paintings by Frans Hals will be placed alongside works and artists he inspired

Frans Hals
Laughing Boy, ca. 1625
On loan from Mauritshuis
The Hague