from The New Book of Knowledge®
The Dutch artist Frans Hals became famous as a portrait painter. His works are full of life, humor, and boldness, reflecting the confident outlook of Dutch society in his day.
Little is known of Hals's life. He was born in Antwerp in the early 1580's. His family moved to Haarlem, a city in the Netherlands, shortly after Antwerp was captured by the Spanish in 1585. Hals lived in Haarlem the rest of his life. He was married twice and had at least ten children.
In his portraits, Hals depicted rich merchants and cavaliers (gentlemen soldiers) in their velvets, satins, and ruffled collars. One of his most impressive portraits, The Laughing Cavalier (1624), is so lifelike that the subject seems ready to step off the canvas. But he also painted genre figures--people in scenes from everyday life. In the 1640's Hals's style became quieter and more somber. Among his greatest masterpieces are his group portraits, particularly the haunting Lady Governors of the Old Men's Almshouse (1664).
Hals painted about 230 works in his lifetime and earned many commissions. Nevertheless, he was penniless when he died in Haarlem on August 29, 1666.
Reviewed by Arthur K. Wheelock, Jr.
National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.)