The National Gallery’s upcoming new exhibition will be the largest devoted to the artist for more than 30 years.

Frans Hals The Laughing Cavalier, 1624 © Trustees of the Wallace Collection, London  

Details have emerged for the National Gallery’s upcoming exhibition devoted to the artist which will be the largest monographic exhibition focusing on the work of Frans Hals for a generation.

The exhibition, which is organised with the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, and the Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, contains some fifty of the artist’s greatest works from museums and private collections from around the world. As well as key loans from the Rijksmuseum, and other Dutch collections including the Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem, other highlights in the exhibition include Isaac Abrahamsz Massa, 1626 (Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto); Portrait of Pieter Dircksz. Tjarck, about 1635, (Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California); The Rommel-Pot Player, about 1620 (Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas); Portrait of Tieleman Roosterman, 1634 (The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio.)

One particular highlight of the exhibition will be the famous The Laughing Cavalier which will come to Trafalgar Square from its home in the Wallace Collection, Manchester Square, where it has been on display since the 1870s. The painting, dating from 1624, will be on loan following the Wallace Collection’s landmark decision in 2019 to lend works from its collection on a temporary basis for the first time in its 120-year history. 

The exhibition will follow mainly a chronological display of portraits, with separate sections for genre paintings and small portraits, allowing space for Hals’s unsurpassed group portraits from the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem, which have rarely left the city since they were painted some four centuries ago.

It is set to open with Early Work which will focus on his extraordinary technique and the sense of living presence it creates, evident from his earliest paintings such as Portrait of Catharina Hooft with her Nurse, about 1620 (Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Gemäldegalerie). Meanwhile, the Portraiture into Art section explores how Hals’s fresh, energetic approach allowed him to transform portraiture from a merely functional genre into an expressive, imaginative art form.

This will then be followed by Invented Characters which will feature scenes of everyday life that Hals painted mainly in the 1620s and 1630s. Portraying people from all walks of life as opposed to paying clients, genre paintings gave Hals the freedom to push the speed and dynamism of his brushwork and the liveliness of his characterisation.

Family Ties will concentrate on the subtlety and warmth with which Hals captured the relationships between his sitters. Highlights of this section will include: Portrait of a Couple, probably Isaac Abrahamsz Massa and Beatrix van der Laen, about 1622 (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam); and Isaac Abrahamsz Massa, 1626 (Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto). 

Meanwhile, Up Close shows how Hals could adapt his expressive brushwork to smaller works, also exploring the function of such pictures as Willem van Heythuysen Seated in a Chair, about 1638 (Private Collection).

The exhibition will then conclude with Late Work which  celebrates the unprecedented technical freedom of Hals’s final decades. It also points to his artistic legacy, from being a feted (though impoverished) artistic son of Haarlem, given a pension by the city, to his rediscovery in France in the 19th-century by Impressionist artists and their circle.

Bart Cornelis, Curator of The Credit Suisse Exhibition: Frans Hals, says: ‘It is very exciting to be able to present the first major monographic show devoted to Frans Hals for more than thirty years. No museum has, during that time, attempted to present a survey of his work, which means that no one under the age of 40 has been able to acquaint themselves, through a comprehensive overview, with the genius of one of the greatest portrait painters of all time.’

The exhibition will be on display from the 30th September until the 21st January 2024.


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