I’m continuing yesterday’s post and showing you some of the amazing Sand Sculptures that were on show in the centre of The Hague last summer.
Frans Hals (the Elder) (1580 – 1666)
Frans Hals was born in Antwerp, which was at this time, along with the southern part of The Netherlands, under the control of the Spanish. With the fall of Antwerp in 1584 his family fled to the northern Dutch city of Haarlem where Frans Hals lived the rest of his life.
He studied under the painter Karel van Mander and at 27 years of age became member of the “Haarlem Guild of Saint Luke” which was the City Painter’s Corporation and he earned his living as an art restorer for the city council.
All religious art had been confiscated in the iconoclasm and any remaining art that was considered too “Roman Catholic” was sold to Cornelis Claesz van Wieringen who was also a member of the guild on the understanding that he remove it from the city. With the market for religious themed artworks disappeared, Frans Hals consequently began a career in Portraiture.
His portraits were mostly of wealthy citizens and large group portraits. However his painting are not exclusively of the upper echelons of society but also a diverse range of all… players and singers, fishwives, tavern scenes, merchants, guildsmen, lawyers and clerks were amongst his subjects.
In contrast to his contemporaries he did not idealize these portraits but rather captured their very individual character in a realistic manner. His ability to capture instantaneous expressions set him apart and made his work particularly distinguishable from other artist of his time. His loose painterly brushwork was revolutionary in portraiture.
Although Frans Hals was a successful painter and there was demand for his work, he lived so long that his works eventually went out of fashion and he ended up in debt. As a consequence he later also worked as a restorer, art dealer and art tax expert for the Haarlem city council to help him though his financial difficulties.
His creditors took him to court on several occasions and he was fored to sell all his possessions, and left destitute, the municipality gave him an annuity of 200 florins in 1664.
He died in 1666 and is buried in St. Bravo Church in Haarlem.
‘Jester with a Lute’ (circa 1624-1625) and is an oil on wood.
The young jester sports a mischievous smile and looks up, producing animation to the painting, showing us Frans Hals’ ability to evoke curiosity from his viewers. As a consequence of the tight framing the jester almost looks larger than life and the background is depicted in neutral earth tones which accentuated the jesters colourful clothes and his vibrant character.
The very precise position of his fingers on the lute suggest that Frans Hals was musically aware of how the fingers should be placed. The identity of the model is unknown, but he does appear in serveral other of Frans Hals works.
Johannes Vermeer (1632 - 1675)
Vermeer was born in the small Dutch town of Delft. Authorities generally agree that he was probably born in the tavern “De Vliegende Vos” (“The flying Fox)” which formerly stood somewhere close to Voldersgracht 25. After age nine he was raised in rooms at the rear of the tavern “Mechelen” a very short distance away which stood on the north side of the Market in Delft. Sadly the “Mechelen” no longer stands, as it was demolished in 1885 for fire prevention reasons and no building has ever replaced it.
It was customary in Vermeer’s time for taverns to run a dual business that combined the sale of beer and the sale of artworks, thus the walls were always full of paintings and there would have been a steady flow of patrons purchasing both commodities so it’s probably in this way that Vermeer became acquainted with the busy trade of artworks.
Experts are divided on the idea that Vermeer served as an apprentice since no records or verification exist telling us to whom he may have been apprenticed. It’s entirely possible he was self-taught.
Other information about him is also disputed, his apparent conversion to Catholicism before his marriage to Catharina Bolenes (who was herself a Catholic) was never publicised but imagery in some of this painting appears to support the idea. Catharina bore him 14 children, 10 of whom survived infancy. Catharina’s mother was modestly wealthy and at some point Vermeer, his wife and children moved into his mother-in Law’s large house, where he remained for the rest of his life.
Vermeer was a specialised painter and painted domestic scenes of every day middle class life, he painted slowly producing only two or three painting a year. It’s also thought but not confirmed that from 1657 he found a patron in the local art collector Pieter van Ruijven, an idea that is supported by Vermeer’s use of the extremely expensive pigment of lapis lazuli (natural ultramarine) which he could not have afforded otherwise.
Another unproved theory is that Vermeer utalised the primitive lens technique of the camera obscura… but with all these things true or not, it is undoubted that Vermeer became one of the most important names in Dutch painting, despite being little known outside Delft during his lifetime.
“Het Melkmeisje” (“The milk maid”) (circa 1658-1660) depicts a serving girl (who as it appears from the task here, would be better called a kitchen maid rather than a milk maid) pouring milk into a container on the table which is also occupied by various loaves of bread. Vermeer uses colour brilliantly, and the juxtaposition of white walls, the way he painted light from the window and the use of the yellows and blues give the work a quality that sets him apart from his contemporaries.