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The Signature Style of Frans Hals

The Signature Style of Frans Hals: Painting, Subjectivity, and the Market in Early Modernity

Christopher D.M. Atkins
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    The Signature Style of Frans Hals
    Book Description:

    The painters of the Dutch Golden Age have a reputation for favoring a dark, serious aesthetic and subdued, everyday scenes over the bravado of their Catholic counterparts. But in fact, Dutch paintings of this period often contain witty visual puns and a fierce vibrancy in their choice of color and subjects. No one more exemplifies this lushness and vividness more than Frans Hals.

    This richly illustrated volume considers Hals's lively brush strokes and distinctive handling of paint within the context of Dutch Golden Age painting as a whole, and itprovides powerful insight into his influence during his own time and for generations afterward. Christopher D. M. Atkins looks at the world in which Hals lived, mining the Dutch economy, as well as Hals's relationships with clients, pupils, and assistants, in order to gain a fuller grasp of the evolution of Hals's instantly recognizable style. A thoughtful study of the commercial and artistic concerns that shaped Hals's work, this book reflects on ideas of authorship, consumption, and subjectivity in early modern Europe. Combining smart historical analysis and a deep understanding of Dutch consumer culture with a strong sense of Hals as an artist,The Signature Style of Frans Halsoffers a wholly new understanding of both the painter and his world.

    With discussions of two of Hals's most famous paintings,The Laughing CavalierandThe Gypsy Girl, this book is required reading for scholars of economic history, art historians, and anyone interested in gaining a deeper insight into life and times of this Dutch master.

    eISBN: 978-90-485-1459-5
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

    (pp. 9-22)

    Two formative experiences I had with paintings by Frans Hals inspired and shaped this project. In my first semester of graduate school I stood before the portrait of Claes Duyst van Voorhout (fig. 92) in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. There, I confronted the image of a robust Dutch burgher who seemed to be brimming with confidence and vitality. Rather than poring over costume details or paraphernalia, though, I was struck by an overriding sense of technical brilliance in the execution. I marveled at the painter’s graceful touches of the brush – short jabs at the elbow, broad sweeps at...

    (pp. 23-84)

    Schrevelius’s brief characterization indicates that Hals’s contemporaries found his manner of painting lively and unique.² As naturalism in its various forms was the dominant mode of representation in the Dutch Republic in the seventeenth century, praise for an artist’s ability to create a “living image” was a standard trope for many writers, but Schrevelius’s description differs from common literary adulation by addressing both the effect of vitality that Hals was able to achieve and the means by which he crafted it.³ Indeed, with Schrevelius’s words in mind, we see more readily how different Hals’s vivacity was from that of both...

    (pp. 85-114)

    Frans Hals’s latePortrait of a Manin the Museé Jacquemart-André (fig. 61) displays the artist’s bold mastery of his materials. Half-cloaked in shadow, the man’s broad features and ruddy complexion demand the viewer’s attention. Upon closer inspection, one notices that Hals conveyed the play of light across the sitter’s face through a series of unblended daubs of unmodulated color. For the sitter’s left cheek, for example, he applied a pinkish flesh tone atop a red ground without smoothing out the perimeter of the bristles’ reach and crowned the crest of the cheekbone with a dab of pure white. Elsewhere,...

    (pp. 115-158)

    As Michael Baxandall has articulated, the economic environment within which both artists and their art operate affects the artists’ goals and their strategies for accomplishing those goals.¹ Assuming purposefulness as Baxandall does, economic realities and actual mechanisms of exchange directly impact artists’ intentions, motivations, and actions, as each painter decides how to meet the charge presented by the market. As a result, analyses of the market and a painter’s interactions with it are central to understanding the artist, his or her process, and the resulting artwork. To date, numerous studies have mapped features of the art markets and economic environment...

    (pp. 159-192)

    Although Hals’s method was distinctive and operated as a signature style, numerous non-autograph paintings were executed in a Halsian manner, including many that are likely to have been produced in his lifetime. Over time, scholars have expunged these Halsian works from the number of autograph paintings in an effort to define Hals’s oeuvre. Pictures have been considered in black-and-white terms as either by Hals or not, or in Mau van Dantzig’s terms as either “true” or “false.”¹ The Rembrandt Research Project (RRP), whose task was to define the corpus of Rembrandt’s paintings, began under similar assumptions, but it has found...

    (pp. 193-238)

    Though his fame has fluctuated with changing tastes, nearly every posthumous response to Frans Hals and his paintings belongs to discourses on modernity in art. Most explicitly, a Belgian art journal proclaimed in 1883, “Frans Hals c’est un moderne.”¹ While Frances Suzman Jowell has studied the revival of interest in Hals in the second half of the nineteenth century, particularly Theophile Thoré-Bürger’s role in inspiring this resurrection, the continued characterization of Hals’s art as modern from the eighteenth century to the present has thus far not been examined.² The multifaceted features of Hals’s manner – roughness, sketchiness, liveliness, seeming spontaneity,...