Setting off to Harlem anytime soon? You have every reason to do so, with the great exhibition of Frans Hals and the Moderns on display at the lovely Frans Hals Museum. An expo revolving around the influence Frans Hals has had on the modern painters of the nineteenth century.
These days, Frans Hals’ name quickly pops up in lists of Dutch Golden Age masters like Rembrandt and Vermeer. But this wasn’t always the case. For a long time, Hals was dispised by artists and art historians alike, calling him names like a drunk with a mediocre talent. His loose brushstrokes were a point of irritation that didn’t sit well with the ideas of painterly beauty in the time of the eighteenth and nineteenth century.
The taste of that time was strict and clean painting, with lots of clear lines. All according to the classical values, with saw a huge revival with the neoclassicism-style. Hals’ paintings were practically the opposite. But in the 1860’s, the perception of Hals’ skills started to change. Slowly but surely his style became popular, admired even. Words like ‘Virtuoso’ came into fashion when talking about Hals. Times, they were a-changing.
The changing view on Frans Hals was mainly due to a French journalist called Théophile Thoré (aka W. Bürger, his pseudonym). Thoré wrote a number of very positive articles on the painter from Harlem in a popular French art magazine in 1868. After that publication, things went fast. Works by Hals quickly gained in value, and all of a sudden collectors knocked on the doors of dealers to add a Hals to their collections. In 1869, the Louvre received their first Hals, followed by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1871. Artists started to come to Harlem to see works by Hals for themselves at the beginning of the 1870’s, admiring and copying them.
Influence on modern painting
At that time, the Gemeentemuseum in Harlem had just opened. It is the predecessor of the Frans Hals Museum we know today. Things were getting crowded in there, with men like Edouard Manet, Max Liebermann, and John Singer Sargent visiting. In this modern age, it was common for artists to write about their works and their sources of inspiration. That is precisely why we are now able to point out to what level the work of Hals was of influence to them. Vincent van Gogh, for example, wrote that he was charmed by Hals, calling it a pleasure to watch his mastery.
The exhibition Frans Hals and the Moderns shows you the appreciation and admiration of Frans Hals in the nineteenth century. By showcasing works of the Moderns next to those of Hals, the artistic influence of the Golden Age master is demonstrated. Go and see for yourself just how modern Frans Hals really was.
Frans Hals and the Moderns, Frans Hals Museum. 13 October 2018 to 24 February 2019.