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Frans Hals Exhibition review


It was obviously time that this 'one of the three masters of the Dutch Golden Age' was honoured with a large international exhibition. And it was obviously a wonderful show of a virtuoso with the brush, who managed incredible effects with a few quick strokes.

But it was also a real missed opportunity to give more context to his daring brilliance in pushing the boundaries on how to portray 17th century people, in ways never done before or by anyone else:

* how to position them on the canvas (partly cut off; pushed to one side; etc)

* their unique body language (smiling; touching and connecting with each other; mirroring each other's body language; letting women show us their confident worth and position within 17th century Dutch society; or the magnetic ways in which children always seem to steal the show)

*how Hals is able to show us the friendly and worthy side of even the most unpleasant men (like slave trader Pieter van den Broecke)


But also how Hals created this unique style on his own, with no precedent or real followers once he died.


Doing a show on only portraits is always risky, and this is possibly why so few exhibitions have been staged on Frans Hals over the years. Little happens in portraits, and if we do not know them it gets quite boring quite quickly... Which is why, to me, it was a mistake to gamble letting these paintings and Hals' brilliance speak for themselves. I wish the exhibition would have given us a bit more to appreciate what makes these paintings so special.


For more context, please join me for my talk on Frans Hals on Friday 27th of October (hybrid) or there after as a recorded replay.






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