Frans Hals: The Credit Suisse Exhibition

Words by
Sphere Editors

4th October 2023

Frans Hals is at The National Gallery, The Credit Suisse Exhibition is now on display. SPHERE investigates the promised highlights of this rarely seen collection of portraits. Frilly lace collars, loosely-painted laughter and embroidered gowns galore. 

The rosy-cheeked portraiture of 17th-century Dutch painter, Frans Hals have filled the first eight of the National Gallery's echoing rooms. This is the largest exhibition of Hals' work that has been presented in thirty years, thanks to loans from the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam and the Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem.

Frans Hals Credit Suisse Exhibition - The Laughing Cavalier
The Laughing Cavalier, Oil on canvas, 1624

Frans Hals marvelled the art world, making his way into the conversations of notable names including Van Gogh and Manet with his ability to create excitement around portraits through his language of varied brush strokes. A key highlight of the exhibition, on a break from its usual residence at The Wallace Collection, is The Laughing Cavalier. This oil portrait from 1624 is a prime example of Hals’ incredible ability to vary brushstrokes and create an astonishing range of textures and dimension with this technique. From the voluminous lace layers of the pleated collar to the meticulous work recreating each stitch of the regal embroidery – the presence of this piece in person promises to astonish with its grand details.

Frans Hals Credit Suisse Exhibition - The Lute Player
The Lute Player, Oil on canvas, about 1623

The cheerful grins that appear in a large amount of Hals’ paintings are an attribute of his work that is difficult to recreate, mainly because smiles are so challenging to capture well. They are a prominent feature in many of his creations with invented characters, from the jester-like smirk across The Lute Player’s face to scrunched dimples mid-laughter in his portraits featuring The Laughing Boy. The ability not to mirror such jolly expressions will surely be a difficulty as you wander this exhibition.

Frans Hals Credit Suisse Exhibition - Portrait of a young woman
Portrait of a Young Woman, a later oil on canvas piece from about 1655-60

As you make your way through the halls of Frans Hals’ portraits, you are taken on a chronological journey through his development. His prized brushstroke technique becomes noticeably looser and freer as he progresses with his career. This is supposed to be particularly noticeable in the collar details, so be sure to take a close look.

Frans Hals: The Credit Suisse Exhibition will be on display at The National Gallery until 21st January 2024.

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