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THE JOLLY TOPPER by Hals. DUTCH MASTERS SERIES, Rijks Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Dutch, c. 1582/1583 - 1666
Frans Hals was the son of Franchoys Hals, a cloth-worker from Mechelen, and Adriana van Geertenryck of Antwerp. He was probably born in Antwerp in about 1582 or 1583. Sometime after the fall of Antwerp to the Spanish in August 1585, his parents moved the family to the northern Netherlands. Frans' brother, Dirck, was baptized in Haarlem in 1591. Dirck Hals (1591-1656) also became a painter, as apparently did a third brother, Joost (died before 16 October 1626); none of the latter's works have been identified.
In the posthumous second edition of Karel van Mander's Het Schilder-boeck (1618), it is stated that Frans Hals had studied painting with the author (1548-1606); if so, his apprenticeship was probably before 1603, when Van Mander left Haarlem for a country estate outside the city to finish writing his book. This alleged apprenticeship, however, did not appear to have much effect on Hals, whose style bears no obvious resemblance to that of Van Mander, and who rarely depicted the type of subjects that Het Schilder-boeck urged young artists to choose. Nonetheless, it should also be noted that extremely little is known (in 1993) of Hals' activities prior to his late twenties, and it is conceivable that as-yet unearthed or unidentified juvenilia will necessitate a reappraisal of his early career.
Hals is first documented as an artist in 1610, when he entered the Haarlem guild. In June 1615, the artist's wife, Annetje Harmansdr., died, leaving him with two young children, one of whom, Harmen, became a painter. The next year Hals made his only recorded trip outside Holland, traveling to Antwerp, where he stayed from August until November. Then, in 1617, he remarried. His second wife, Lysbeth Reynier, was reprimanded by the city authorities on several occasions for brawling. She bore the artist at least eight children--one baptized nine days after the wedding--amongst them the artists Frans the Younger (1618-1669), Reynier (1627-1671), and Nicolaes (1628-1686). Another artist son named Jan or Johannes (active c. 1635-1650) was also probably a child of this marriage, and a daughter, Adriaentje, married the Haarlem genre and still-life painter Pieter Gerritsz van Roestraten, bringing the total number of artists in the family to about a dozen, if one includes Hals' brothers and nephews.
Although portraiture was always Hals' specialty, he also painted genre scenes and a handful of religious paintings. In his early maturity, from 1616 to 1625, Hals was associated with a Haarlem rederijkerskamer (rhetoricians' chamber), 'De Wijngaertranken.' The appreciation of his painting skills, to which a number of important group portrait commissions testify, was documented as early as 1628, when Samuel Ampzing's general description of the city of Haarlem included a passage praising Hals' ability to capture the spirit of his portrait sitters. Despite this recognition, Hals was continually plagued by financial difficulties. Even during the 1630s, when his services as a portraitist seem to have been in the greatest demand, he is known to have been sued by his butcher, baker, and shoemaker in pursuit of unpaid debts. In 1654, he paid a debt to a baker by surrendering his household goods and several paintings, and from 1662 until his death he received relief from the burgomasters--an initial gift of 50 guilders, plus an annual allowance of 150 guilders per year, increased to 200 guilders in 1663.
Hals died in Haarlem on August 29, 1666, and was buried in Saint Bavo's on September 1.
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