The Dutch Golden Age painter Frans Hals’ esteemed skills in portraiture and genre painting are brought to the National Gallery in his first major retrospective in over 30 years, cementing his position as one of the greatest painters in Western art.
Frans Hals’s 17th-century portrait paintings completely transformed the genre, depicting bold expressive brushstrokes, a vibrant palette, and relaxed or playful sitters, often leaning over the back of a chair smiling. This casual informality was revolutionary at the time; it breathed life into his subjects, ascribing them with facial expressions and poses to distinguish the character of each individual.
His unique approach to portraiture captured Dutch audiences at the time and this popularity landed him a steady stream of commissions from wealthy citizens and institutions throughout his life, awarding him the nickname ‘Haarlem’s famous son’. He is considered to be a precursor to many Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, who were exposed to his paintings in Paris in the 1860s and praised his thick and expressive brushwork.
This exhibition will bring together 50 of his most celebrated works – including The Laughing Cavalier (1624) from the Wallace Collection – ranging from individual portraits, large group portraits, genre scenes, and marriage portraits, many of which have not been shown together since they were split up.
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