Frans Hals, the Elder

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Frans Hals, the Elder

Birthdate:
Birthplace: Antwerpen, Vlaams Gewest, Vlaanderen, België
Death: Died in Haarlem, Noord-Holland, Nederland
Place of Burial: St. Bavo Church, Haarlem, The Netherlands
Immediate Family:

Son of Franchoys (Frans) Hals, Sr. and Adriana Van Geestenryck
Husband of Anneke Harmensdr Abeel and Lysbeth Reyniersdr
Father of Harmen Hals; Sara Hals; Claes Hals; Frans Hals; Reynier Hals and 4 others
Brother of Dirck Hals and Joost Hals

Occupation: Dutch Golden Age painter.
Managed by: George J. Homs
Last Updated:

About Frans Hals, the Elder

Frans HALS in het Rijksmuseum Amsterdam -------------------- Frans Hals (the Elder) (c. 1580 – 26 August 1666) was a Dutch Golden Age painter. He is notable for his loose painterly brushwork, and helped introduce this lively style of painting into Dutch art. Hals was also instrumental in the evolution of 17th century group portraiture.

Biography

Hals was born in 1580 or 1581, in Antwerp. Like many, Hals' family fled during the Fall of Antwerp (1584-1585) from the Spanish Netherlands to Haarlem, where he lived for the remainder of his life. Hals studied under another Flemish-émigré, Karel van Mander (1548–1606), whose Mannerist influence, however, is not noticeably visible in his work. At the age of 27, he became a member of the city's painter's corporation, the Haarlem Guild of Saint Luke, and he started to earn money as an art restorer for the city council. He worked on their large art collection that Karel van Mander had described in his book The Painting-Book (Middle Dutch: Het Schilder-Boeck), published in 1604. The most notable of these were the works of Geertgen tot Sint Jans, Jan van Scorel and Jan Mostaert, that hung in de St. Jans kerk in Haarlem. The restoration work was paid for by the city of Haarlem, since all religious art was confiscated after the iconoclasm, but the entire collection of paintings was not formally possessed by the city council until 1625, after the city fathers had decided which paintings were suitable for the city hall. The remaining art that was considered too "Roman Catholic" was sold to Cornelis Claesz van Wieringen, a fellow guild member, on the grounds that he remove it from the city. It was under these circumstances that Hals began his career in portraiture, since the market for religious themes had disappeared.

The earliest known example of Hals' own art is the 1611, Jacobus Zaffius. His 'breakthrough' came in 1616, with the life-size group portrait, The Banquet of the Officers of the St George Militia Company. His most noted portrait today is the one he made in 1649 of René Descartes.

Historians have erroneously reported that he mistreated his first wife, Anneke Hermansz (Annetje Harmensdochter Abeel), based on records that a Frans Hals was charged with spousal abuse in Haarlem in 1616. However, as Seymour Slive has pointed out, the Frans Hals in question was not the artist, but another Haarlem resident of the same name. Indeed, at the time of these charges, the artist had no wife to mistreat as Anneke had died during labor earlier in 1616. Similarly, historical accounts of Hals' propensity for drink have been largely based on embellished anecdotes of his early biographers, namely Arnold Houbraken, with no direct evidence existing documenting such. In 1617, he married Lysbeth Reyniers, the young daughter of a fishmonger that he had taken in to look after his two children. They married in Spaarndam, a small village outside the banns of Haarlem, because she was already 8 months pregnant. Frans Hals was a devoted father and they went on to have eight children. Where Hals contemporaries such as Rembrandt moved their households according to the caprices of patrons, Hals remained in Haarlem en insisted that his customers came to him. According to the Haarlem archives, a militia piece that Hals started in Amsterdam was finished by another painter because Hals refused to paint in Amsterdam, insisting that the militiamen come to Haarlem to sit for their portraits.

Although Hals' work was in demand throughout his life, he lived so long that he eventually went out of style as a painter and experienced financial difficulties. In addition to his painting, he continued throughout his life to work as an restorer, art dealer, and art tax expert for the city councilors. His creditors took him to court several times, and to settle his debt with a baker in 1652 he sold his belongings. The inventory of the property seized mentions only three mattresses and bolsters, an armoire, a table and five pictures (these were by himself, his sons, van Mander, and Maarten van Heemskerck). Left destitute, the municipality gave him an annuity of 200 florins in 1664.

At a time when the Dutch nation fought for independence, Hals appeared in the ranks of the schutterij, a military guild. This fact found in the Haarlem archives has led to speculation that Hals made a self portrait in his 1639 painting of the St. Joris company, though this has never been confirmed. It was not normal for mere members to be painted, that privilege was reserved only for the officers. It is possible that he received the privilege as thanks for painting that company 3 times. Hals was also a member of a local chamber of rhetoric, and in 1644 chairman of the Painters Corporation at Haarlem.

Frans Hals died in Haarlem in 1666 and was buried in the city's St. Bavo Church. His widow later died obscurely in a hospital after seeking outdoor relief from the guardians of the poor.

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Frans Hals, the Elder's Timeline

1580
1580
Antwerpen, Vlaams Gewest, Vlaanderen, België
1610
1610
Age 30
1611
September 2, 1611
Age 31
Haarlem, Noord-Holland, Nederland
1617
February 1617
Age 37
Spaarndam, North Holland, The Netherlands
1617
Age 37
1618
1618
Age 38
1620
1620
Age 40
1627
1627
Age 47
1628
1628
Age 48
Haarlem, Noord-Holland, Nederland
1628
Age 48